by: Tom Regan Updated:ATLANTA —
Atlanta police have arrested a married couple who allegedly defrauded home shoppers out of nearly $20,000.
Investigators said the couple, who claim to be sovereign citizens, sold vacant or foreclosed homes that they did not own.
"He literally hosted tours where he was driving people from house to house, showing the houses. He forced entry into houses by kicking the door or going through a window," Atlanta Police Sgt. Paul Cooper said. "He would change the locks on the doors. Witnesses or
victims said he had what looked like a janitor's key ring."
Cooper told Channel 2's Tom Regan that Edgar Rodgers and his wife, Diane Rowe, told potential buyers they could get homes through a document process
called adverse possession. He explained it was legal and reliable.
"Mr. Rodgers was recruiting people to adversely possess houses. He was hosting seminars online and in various people's house and hotel conference rooms." Sgt. Cooper said.
Police said Rodgers filed false court documents claiming ownership of some of the homes. Several unsuspecting buyers made renovations to homes, only to later learn they did not own them.
Investigators said they would have to leave.
Melvin Morton, who owns a carpet cleaning business, said he was conned out of $4,50. He said Rodgers told him that he owned the home and would sell it to Morton as a real estate investment.
"…Tried to buy a house for cheap, ended up getting scammed. Like my mom said, when it seems too good to be true, it's not true," Morton said.
Sovereign citizens are members of anti-government groups that believe that banks cannot own land or property.
A Channel 2 Action News investigation two years ago exposed large numbers of sovereign citizens moving into homes they did not own.
Rodgers and his wife are charged with racketeering and multiple counts of theft by deception.
Police said they may file additional charges against the couple.