A religious sect accused of fraudulently creating new deeds on several Chicago homes -- including city treasurer Stephanie Neely's Kenwood house -- denies being part of the scam.
According to an article by the Chicago News Cooperative's Susan Chandler in Sunday's New York Times, the deed for Neely’s Kenwood home lists the Moorish Science Temple of America’s deceased founder Noble Drew Ali as the owner of the property.
More than 30 Chicago area homes are listed under similar circumstances.
An official with the Moorish Temple denied they were involved.
"People are falsely using our name," grand sheik and moderator Robert Jones Bey said. "We denounce that. It misrepresents our organization."
In about half of the cases, the homes were deeded from Noble Drew Ali, the Moors' prophet who died in 1929, and then deeded to the church. Under current laws, dead people cannnot deed property.
In most of the Chicago cases, the victims are banks that are foreclosing on properties. In addition to E*Trade Bank, lenders caught up in the scheme include Deutsche Bank, Fifth Third Bank, CitiMortgage and JPMorgan Chase. In one case, people purporting to be temple members claimed ownership of a property belonging to an evangelical Christian church on the Far South Side.
Normally, a warranty deed is used after a sale to transfer ownership of a property from one owner to another. In Ms. Neely’s case, Countrywide Bank, Ms. Neely’s lender, appears to be transferring the warranty deed to Mr. Drew Ali, the founder of the Moorish Science Temple, who died in 1929 and who preached that all African-Americans were of Moorish descent and not true citizens of the United States. Members were instructed to carry “Moorish passports” with their “real names,” which were created by adding El, Bey or Ali to their given names.
The deed maneuver has happened in other cities, but officials say the number of cases in Chicago is staggering compared with the rest of the country, where The Moorish Temple of America's name also pops up.
A spokesman for The Moorish Temple of America, which is based in Washington, denies his organization is involved in the ruse. R. Jones-Bey, the grand sheik and moderator of the church, says it’s someone using the church’s name to create a problem.
Neely has reached out to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for help in investigating the issue. Madigan’s office says it is currently looking into it.