DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - A DeKalb County grand jury has indicted three people on charges of racketeering, after a yearlong Channel 2 investigation exposed their alleged scheme to take over foreclosed homes.
Decatur police arrested Susan Weidman, the woman at the center of the investigation, at a home on Champlain Street Tuesday morning.
A Channel 2 investigation in May revealed a bogus court document Weidman is accused of filing, claiming the home was abandoned and that she now owns it. It's actually a foreclosure owned by Chase Bank.
The indictment alleges Weidman recruited Ian Greye to pose as a renter at the home. Prosecutors said Greye and Weidman used a fake lease between them to keep law enforcement from forcing them out of the home for several months.
"When law enforcement would question why they were there, they would present the bogus lease and say, ‘Well, we have right to be here,’” DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said.
He said Weidman ran the same scheme in Forsyth County. Matthew Lowery was charged as the alleged “renter” of a home on Shade Tree Way in Cumming.
Another Channel 2 investigation exposed that portion of the story just last week, including questions as to whether Chase Bank wanted to pursue criminal action against Weidman for that case.
Chase Bank ultimately decided to allow DeKalb County to prosecute both cases together, along with a third property on Spalding Hills Drive in Sandy Springs. The racketeering indictment cites burglary, theft by taking, and mail fraud, among other charges.
"That enterprise was for the purpose of taking homes. It's complicated, but it's simple," added James.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer first began investigating Weidman a year ago, after Weidman allegedly canceled her own mortgage to try to stop the bank from foreclosing on her home. The fraudulent paperwork created several years of delay, but a Cobb County grand jury ended up indicting Weidman this summer.
After seeing that investigation, the bank's Realtors for the DeKalb and Forsyth homes contacted Fleischer, to help piece together Weidman's documents by comparing signatures and following the paper trail.
"You can't just come in and take it over ‘cause it's empty," said Kay Penter, who lives near the Decatur home.
Neighbors there applauded as law enforcement placed Weidman in handcuffs and hauled her off to jail.
"I'm so glad. It's terrifying to live two doors up from people who've just taken over a beautiful home in the neighborhood," Penter said.
Even as officers led her away in handcuffs, Weidman insisted she thought what was she was doing was legal.
"I feel a little bit entrapped, that if this was illegal, why didn't they put something in writing and explain that to me?” she told Fleischer.
Weidman is also accused of creating a bogus law firm, to send threatening letters to the bank's representatives. The Georgia Bar Association is also investigating that claim.
"I haven't hurt anybody, and I've taken no money under false pretenses," Weidman said.
She's now in the DeKalb County jail with no bond.
Officers are searching for Lowery, the alleged Forsyth County “renter.” A judge signed a warrant for his arrest.
The alleged DeKalb County renter, Ian Greye, was actually arrested on unrelated charges at the house in Forsyth County, while deputies were investigating the case up there. That's how prosecutors said they initially figured out Weidman and the renters were apparently working together.