SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.,None - One of the men linked to a real estate scheme exposed by a Channel 2 Action News investigation, pleaded guilty to racketeering Tuesday.
Kenith Beniaih Rey admitted trying to steal a $2 million home in Sandy Springs. It was still under construction when he filed a quit claim deed in his name, turned on the power and alarm
system, and moved in an armchair and suitcases.
"He was also involved with a co-defendant who was deeply engrained in the organization, a man by the name of Richard Terrance Jenkins," prosecutor John Melvin told the judge.
Jenkins sat watching in the courtroom. He and Rey were indicted in March along with
10 others. Jenkins is accused of trying to steal six houses. Rey said he was just interested in acquiring foreclosed houses and that Jenkins roped him into the scheme.
"They began to show me some of the properties that they had. I decided to acquire his services," Rey said.
But the homeowner was able to escape foreclosure, found Rey's belongings and called Sandy Springs Police.
"It was one home that was an abandoned foreclosure that I was trying to acquire. He was like 'let me show you how to acquire it,' and we went down to the courthouse and filed documents which he had provided," Rey said.
Rey will serve five years on probation, minus the nearly one year he's already been in jail.
Deputies re-arrested Rey after the Channel 2 investigation linked him to a group of sovereign citizens who used bogus paperwork to take over vacant and foreclosed homes across the metro-Atlanta area. Rey said he is not sovereign.
"Mr. Rey wanted to make it clear that is not him. He did this because he thought he was entering a business opportunity, recognizes that it was too good to be true and should have had more sense. But he is not part of this enclave of persons who are out there committing these acts," Karlyn Skall, Rey's attorney, said.
As part of the guilty plea, Rey agreed to testify against his co-defendants.
"Do you want to explain how all this happened?" Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer asked Jenkins outside the courtroom.
"Nope," he replied, walking away with co-defendants Jermaine Gibson and Gregory Ross.
One held a copy of Black's Law Dictionary, popular with Sovereign Citizens, who claim they are immune to our laws. Two of the defendants are still in custody, unable to afford their bond.
"You are still representing yourself in this case? Is that correct," the judge asked Corey Freeman.
"This is correct," replied Freeman.
"And are you ready to proceed to trial?" she asked Eliyshuwa Yisrael.
"Yes, ma'am," Yisrael replied.
Fleischer's investigation helped law enforcement link nearly a dozen people to the real estate scheme. She uncovered at least
18 stolen properties in eight metro area counties.
The remaining defendants will likely go to trial early next year. The prosecutor told the judge he intends to ask for much tougher sentences for several of the other defendants, but agreed to probation for Rey
because he was not a central figure in the case.