by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:ATLANTA,None —
The foreclosure boom has forced tens of thousands of Georgians from their homes, but a Channel 2 Action News investigation has found one case where the bank is backing down and the woman who says she now owns the home got it for free.
Susan Weidman is under indictment in Cobb County and under criminal investigation in DeKalb County. Investigators say she filed court documents declaring a million-dollar foreclosed home to be abandoned and assumed ownership by Adverse Possession -- basically squatters’ rights.
Now she appears to have taken over another home in Cumming. Forsyth County sheriff’s deputies told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer that they did find evidence of a crime and that prosecutors wanted to file charges. The home, at 6645 Shade Tree Way, is owned by Chase Bank.
Authorities told Fleischer the bank was not cooperating but that changed once they found out about the Channel 2 investigation."I'm worried. I mean, yeah, I've invested money in this and this is my home," said Matthew Lowery, who told Fleischer he rented the $600,000 home from Weidman.
"Right now I'm not sure what to think because I have one party telling me one thing. I have another party telling me another," added Lowery.
Records show Chase Bank started to foreclose on the home more than a year ago. The owner moved out and Weidman started moving furniture in. The bank's real estate agent set up a camera after losing a sale because the home wasn't vacant. At first, the agent didn't know who the woman in the photos was, but he got a threatening letter telling him not to enter the house without a court order. The letter says someone named Sam Wilson found the property abandoned and called the foreclosure fraudulent. The agent used Google to find the name, and discovered Channel 2's investigation from May.
The real estate agent recognized the face and saw that Sam Wilson was really Susan Weidman, a suburban mom who bragged to Channel 2 about canceling her own mortgage in Cobb County to avoid foreclosure there. She showed Fleischer how she researched real estate techniques on the Internet. Fleischer caught up with Weidman again this month, outside the DeKalb County property she’s accused of taking.
"The documentation I have is that the bank owns this property," a Decatur police officer told Weidman.She's still fighting to hang onto that house on Champlain Street, saying it's hers because of her Adverse Possession claim.
"I've asked the bank repeatedly to show that they have clear title of the property and they never have," said Weidman. Fleischer asked, "But how does it, being in legal limbo, make it yours?” Weidman replied, “Then how does it make it theirs?"
Weidman says she only targets vacant homes where she feels the loans seem predatory."How many houses have you taken over?” Fleischer asked. Weidman tried to avoid the question, eventually replying, “I have identified a couple of properties that had legal issues."
Weidman may have more legal issues, too. In that threatening letter to the real estate agent, the attorney’s name is Susan L. Hoffman, the signature looks a lot like the one for Susan L. Weidman. Fleischer discovered the entire law firm to which Hoffman belongs is bogus. The agent filed a complaint with The Georgia Bar Association."I’m not trying to take a lot of houses, I’m just trying to make a point," Weidman told Fleischer. And in Forsyth County she may be successful.
Sheriff’s Capt. Tim House told Fleischer, "We made contact with the representatives again for the mortgage company, who elected not to go any further with it.""So there’s nothing you can do?” Fleischer asked.“Unfortunately not, not at this point," House answered. He said unless Chase Bank decides to be a willing victim, Weidman's renter can stay. It's unclear what will happen now that the bank appears to be cooperating with investigators, but it could lead to more charges.
"I paid her a large amount of rent and I have a lease," Lowery told Fleischer. He would not say how much money, or show the lease. He told Fleischer he believes Weidman's claim that the house is hers."Yeah, I mean, I don’t see why a person would just come up and say, 'Oh yeah, this is my house,'" said Lowery.
Lowery said if he ends up getting kicked out of the house, he'll pursue legal action against Weidman for the rent he paid.“I would hope the victim would come forward so justice will prevail. And that we take these people off the street because ultimately they’re robbing not only from the bank or the owner, but their robbing it from everybody,” said House.
He added, “If other people were to get wind of this type of crime, you could have the copycat out there that’s going to do it. That just creates a major issue for law enforcement and for property owners and property owners’ rights."
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