It was a $650,000 scam in which Amin A. Rashid - also known as Lawrence D. Wilson - set out to dupe the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office and former property owners who lost their homes through sheriff's sale, an indictment handed up yesterday alleges.
Rashid, 60, of Germantown, was accused in the indictment of mail fraud and identity theft in the scam, which took place over nearly three years and which defrauded more than a dozen people.
Rashid defrauded both the Sheriff's Office and the former property owners, promising either to recover their homes by "reversing sheriff's sales" or to retrieve for them the money from the sales, according to the indictment.
For example, he took more than $50,000 from two of his clients to hold "in escrow," promising to use the money to buy back their homes for them, the indictments alleges.
"Defendant Rashid did nothing for his two clients and kept the $50,000 for himself," the indictment states.
According to the indictment, from at least December 2005 to August 2008 Rashid operated a company called the Center for Constitutional and Criminal Justice and gave himself the title of "director of legal and political affairs," a grand jury charged.
Rashid hired people to find the former owners of the properties, the indictment states.
It also alleges that Rashid used fraudulent documents and forged power-of-attorney documents to collect proceeds from sheriff's sales.
Some of the documents included the driver's license information and forged signatures of former property owners who had died before the date listed on the documents, U.S. Attorney Michael Levy said.
The indictment alleged that Rashid also submitted bogus corporate resolutions authorizing him and his attorney to collect any proceeds from sheriff's sales of properties last owned by these corporations. He used family members to pose as officers of the corporations, the indictment said.
Rashid was first indicted in February in the case on two counts of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, said Patty Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney.
He has been held in federal custody since February on those charges, she said
Yesterday's indictment brought additional counts of fraud and identity theft, which is a total of 10 counts of mail fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft.
If convicted, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 221 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $4.75 million fine, $1,900 in special assessments, restitution to all victims and forfeiture of the proceeds from the alleged crimes.
The case was brought after an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and Philadelphia police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri. *