Four men were charged with stealing houses, most of which were local, and selling them to unsuspecting buyers.
After a three-year District Attorney’s Office investigation, its Economic and Cyber Crimes Unit discovered 22 deeds for uninhabited dwellings, including 17 South Philly locations — most of which were in Point Breeze — were forged, with the properties allegedly transferred from the actual owners to Andre Ketter aka Oscar Ketter, 42, of the 1500 block of South Dorrance Street; Zachary Stokes, 55, of Society Hill; Elhadi Ibrahim, 48, of Northeast Philly, Steven Johnson, 49, of Northeast Philly, or a fictitious name, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“The properties were then often sold to innocent purchasers, and in many cases, the purchase price was just $1,” according to a press release.
However, the properties, whose transfers and sales date back to 2008, were sold for up to $270,000, according to property records. Each case was fraudulent as the true owners did not agree to transfer the locations’ titles or sign the deeds, according to the office. Instead, many learned of the transfer upon receiving notification from the Department of Records, prompting them to contact authorities.
The affected properties included 14 in Point Breeze — two on Ketter’s block, as well as one each on the 1200 block of South 22nd Street; 1400 blocks of South Bancroft, Chadwick, Colorado, 22nd and 24th streets; 1600 blocks of South Carlisle and Mole streets; 1800 block of South 19th Street; 2000 block of South Beechwood Street; and the 1900 blocks of Dickinson and Fernon streets. Other neighborhoods affected with one property included Hawthorne on the 700 block of South 11th Street; Passyunk Square on the 1100 block of South Clifton Street; and South of South on the 2200 block of Kimball Street. Four North Philly locations and a West Philly spot rounded out the 22 properties.
The Passyunk Square site, valued as $17,600, lists Stokes as having purchased for $1 in ’09, but he uses Ketter’s address as his own, according to property records. Ketter is listed as purchasing the Fernon Street locale for $4,000 in ’10.
Ketter was charged with 22 counts of forgery; 16 counts of theft — unlawful taking, theft — deception and conspiracy engaging theft; 15 counts of tampering with public records, tampering with records or ID writing; six counts of conspiracy of forgery; four counts of identity theft; and one count of burglary, receiving stolen property and conspiracy engaging burglary, according to court records. Ketter was charged in all 22 alleged cases while Stokes and Ibrahim were charged with similar offenses in 17 and 16 cases, respectively. Ibrahim was arrested Jan. 7 and his bail was set at $560,000. Stokes and Ketter were arrested Jan. 9 and remain in jail with respective bails of $595,000 and $550,000. Johnson had not been arrested as of press time.
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