Seven people have been arrested and an eighth person is being sought in connection with a series of elaborate real estate thefts that District Attorney Larry Krasner said cost property owners more than $900,000.

In announcing the arrests Monday, Krasner called the thefts “despicable” and said the thieves stole from victims living and dead. He said the group

forged deeds to steal homes and lots and then sold the properties and pocketed the profits.

Authorities are still searching for the group’s alleged ringleader, Wahid Redmond, 30, who is also known as Matthew Victor Black. Krasner called on Redmond to turn himself in.

“He is one of the primary players in this conspiracy. He deserves to be accountable in all the appropriate ways. And we also need to protect people from what future scams he may be cooking up right now,” Krasner said.

One of the victims is a woman in her 90s who had moved to a nursing home, the DA said. Others, he said, were deceased.

Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Esack, assistant supervisor of the Economic Crimes Unit, said the office worked with the Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit to break up the theft ring, which operated over several years in Kensington, South, Southwest, and Northwest Philadelphia.

“Both lots and homes were targeted from the dead as well as the living, the young and the old,” Esack said. “The properties were acquired using forged paperwork, stolen identities, fake names, as well as licenses.”

Search warrants executed during the investigation uncovered multiple email addresses, phone numbers, and fraudulent paper work showing how deeds were created and submitted, and the trail led authorities to those charged, she said.

“When someone steals a property, they aren’t just stealing an item, they’re stealing a person’s security. They’re taking away a person’s past, present, and future,” said Esack. She asked people to keep an eye out for unusual activity around the homes of elderly or recently deceased neighbors and report concerns to the police or to the District Attorney’s Office at 215-686-9902 or email fraudcomplaint@phila.gov.

Real estate thefts are common in the city and it is difficult to estimate just how many properties are stolen each year, said Krasner and Esack.

» READ MORE: Thieves and forgers are taking houses from the deceased in ‘hot’ neighborhoods — as the city stands by (from January 2019)

“While we can’t put a number on the number of stolen homes where there is no accountability, we know it’s a lot. We know that while this administration has done a far better job than the prior administration, there is much, much, more than we can do,” said Krasner, who added that his office needs more funding to hire attorneys and to conduct investigations.

In May, Krasner announced the arrest of Tyree Burno, who is accused of forging names on documents to steal 14 properties in West Oak Lane, Logan, Frankford, Cedarbrook, and Mount Airy. Burno, who is awaiting trial, was charged with theft, theft by deception, identity theft, forgery, tampering with public records, and related crimes.

In 2019, city Records Commissioner James Leonard unveiled a new system called Fraud Guard, designed to crack down on house theft by automatically emailing people any time their names appear on a deed, mortgage, or other real estate record filed with the city. The web address to sign up for the service is phila.gov/deed-fraud.

In the case announced Monday, Krasner said, Redmond; Dominic Tisdale, 28; Khalif Hines, 27; and Muadh Abdur-Rahmaan, 23, have each been charged with conspiracy, multiple counts of theft, forgery, and related counts.

Also charged with conspiracy, theft, and related crimes are Cameron Holmes, 31, and Racquel Daniels, 27. Tiffany Newkirk, 45, who is the mother of Hines, and Jevanna Robinson, 27, who is Redmond’s girlfriend, are also charged in the scheme with crimes including conspiracy, theft, and forgery.