Possible cohousing financial crime spree
From: katie-henry (katie-henryatt.net)
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 16:51:28 -0800 (PST)
NOTE: The possible crime spree I've described below is only believed to involve 
financial scams, such as identity theft and mortgage fraud. There is no reason 
to believe there are plans for burglaries or robberies or other crimes against 
property or violent crimes.

(Personal observation: I am mystified as to why they would target cohousing 
communities. If I wanted to operate financial scams, cohousing is the LAST 
place I would go. Too many smart, informed residents, and they all talk to each 
other. Makes no sense to me. Plus, cohousing communities don't have that many 


I just got off the phone with Detective Walter Siegel (sp?) of the Shaker 
Heights Police Department outside Cleveland, Ohio, 216-491-1275. (Yes, I looked 
up their number and verified that I was calling a real police station and 
called back.)

They just arrested two subjects for mortgage fraud and found materials in their 
possession indicating that they were about to embark on a cohousing tour of the 
Northeast U.S., starting in Vermont and visiting the following communities.

Cobb Hill in Vermont
EcoVillage at Ithaca 
Hundredfold Farm
Takoma Village Cohousing
Eastern Village Cohousing
EcoVillage of Loudon

Upon questioning, the suspects confirmed that this was their plan.

He called me because the suspects had my name and number as the contact for 
Eastern Village. I can only assume they got this info from either 
www.cohousing.org or the FIC web site, since I'm the EVC contact on those sites 
and my name doesn't appear on our site (www.easternvillage.org). The suspects 
had all sorts of literature on cohousing, green building, sustainable farming, 
etc. He's calling the contacts for the other communities on the list as well. 
(EcoVillage Loudon, I called your contact person on his behalf. He was getting 
tired of making calls. You can call him back if you want.)

The suspects' names are Jeffrey St. Martin (also goes by Mahun) and Ayanna 
Israel (also goes by McRae). (Spellings not confirmed.) Mr. St. Martin is on 
probation for bank fraud, and Ms. Israel is $900,000 in debt. Both parties are 
suspects in a number of cases of mortgage fraud, identify theft, inflated 
appraisal scams, and credit hijacking. One of their scams is to buy property, 
then enter into rent-to-own agreements with buyers, then fail to forward the 
payments to the bank. The buyer thinks everything is fine until the sheriff 
shows up with an eviction notice. 

They are members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, based in Corsicana, TX (near 
Waco), which is on the FBI watch list for domestic terrorism. I spent two 
minutes Googling and found that there's a branch of this group that lives 
communally somewhere in Israel, so perhaps they just wanted to learn about 
cohousing, but Detective Siegel seemed pretty certain that they were planning 
financial scams. He had no idea if they were working independently or are part 
of a larger group.

In a possibly unrelated development, EVC's resale coordinator received a call 
yesterday from a woman who claims she is an ambassador to the UN and says that 
she owns our building and is going to sue the developer and have us all 
evicted. She has apparently been hanging around the courtyard talking to people 
(she commented that we are all very friendly and forthcoming with information), 
and she also called our management company. (Their number is posted by the 
front door, as is mine, but I haven't heard from her yet.) Most of us were 
dismissing her as a crackpot, but we're rethinking in light of this 
development. I'd be interested in knowing if any other communities have had 
similar odd experiences recently.

Eastern Village Cohousing
Silver Spring, MD

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