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Real-estate scammer headed to big house

A federal judge sentenced Eric Tubbs to nearly six years in prison for fraud.

A SWINDLER who sold houses he didn't own has a new home himself: the state correctional system.

Eric Tubbs, 54, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly six years in prison for the fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced yesterday.

Tubbs, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty in federal court April 22 to seven counts of wire, mail and bank fraud, identity theft and money laundering, U.S. Attorney spokeswoman Patti Hartman said.

For years, Tubbs operated a fairly detailed scheme: He would find vacant properties throughout the city, write up fake deeds for them and then transfer ownership of the empty houses to his cohorts, Hartman said.

He would then put the properties on the market, selling them to people who saw him as a legitimate owner.

In one case, Tubbs used one of his phony deeds to transfer ownership of a house in South Philly to Douglas Fields for $1, claiming Fields was the son of the house's owners, according to Hartman.

Tubbs flipped the property a few months later for $140,000.

But Tubbs didn't limit his misdeeds to forging deeds: He also would sell properties owned by estates by having his cronies pretend to be the executors, according to Hartman.

Like a 2009 case out of Center City, when Tubbs sold a house for $130,000. Or a 2011 case in Point Breeze when he sold a house for $22,000, but only got $877 out of the deal because of liens and mortgages.

But the ever-crafty Tubbs forged that check, and ended up getting more than $8,000 out of the whole deal, according to Hartman.

Tubbs was also ordered to pay more than $271,000 in restitution, as well as forfeit an additional $227,000.