Crime

Ex-Detroit Housing Official Charged With Stealing Dozens of Homes

February 28, 2024, 11:39 AM by  Allan Lengel


Zina Thomas

A high-ranking official at a Detroit nonprofit housing organization faces charges of orchestrating a scheme to steal more than 30 homes from low-income residents facing foreclosure. 

Zina Thomas, 60, of Detroit, is charged in federal court in Detroit with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. She was arrested Wednesday and later released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing is set for March 20.

"This scheme targeted some of our most financially vulnerable citizens and was perpetrated by an individual whose job it was to help those very people avoid losing their homes to foreclosure," Detroit U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement. 

Her bio at the organization says:

With over 25 years of housing experience as a real-estate agent, housing inspector, and mortgage broker, Zina Thomas joined UCHC in 2021 as a tax-foreclosure prevention counselor. Zina is dedicated to helping others, and her family has always been active in fighting for the rights of others.

Authorities charged that Thomas, while serving as the director of Homeownership Programs for the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), conspired with others to steal more than 30 properties in Wayne County, most of which were in Detroit. 

The fraud involved Thomas and others filing multiple fraudulent quitclaim deeds, frequently transferring the target properties from the victim-owners to non-existent “interim owners” before ultimately selling the properties to third parties who were unaware of the fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release.

As part of the scheme, the government alleged that Thomas or another person falsely notarized the deeds. which allowed them to be filed with the Register of Deeds.

The government's criminal complaint also alleges that Thomas emailed a Wayne County Treasurer’s Office employee fake driver’s licenses and other documents, which were then uploaded into the Treasurer’s Property Tax Administration system to stop the pending foreclosures of the homes. 

Authorities contend that Thomas received payment for at least some of the stolen properties via wire transfer into a bank account under the name of her realty company. The money was then transferred to her personal bank account. 

Thomas currently lives in one of the homes she stole, authorities allege. 

Authorities said that executive leadership from the housing organization cooperated with the investigation.

 



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