A federal grand jury indicted a city man on charges of obtaining ownership of more than two-dozen properties that were classified as distressed and selling them for more than $1 million over a period of almost two years.
A news release from Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said that Ondrea Shabazz, 47, of Youngstown, faces a 59-count indictment on charges of real-estate fraud, identity fraud and mail fraud.
The indictment was handed down Wednesday.
“This defendant is accused of taking advantage of blight and distress in Youngstown neighborhoods as a way to enrich himself,” Dettelbach said.
The indictment says Shabazz found properties that were either foreclosed or scheduled for demolition, made fake quit-claim deeds, in some instances forged a notary’s signature and the names of the property owners on the deeds, and transferred them to a real-estate company he created or to other companies affiliated with him.
After submitting the paperwork to either the Mahoning County Recorder’s or Auditor’s offices, he would have the deeds mailed back to him.
He would then resell the property under the false assumption he was the owner, according to the news release.
Counts one to 29 of the indictment accuse Shabazz of real-estate fraud, and the other counts accuse him of obtaining and using false identities to commit mail fraud.
The release also said Shabazz would stand in as an intermediary in other real-estate deals with the owners of properties and unsuspecting third parties, and he would then forge signatures of property owners or notaries, the release said.
The release also said Shabazz took part in the scheme from October 2011 to June of this year. Shabazz could not be reached for comment.
An arraignment date has not been set.
According to Vindicator files, the company named in the indictment, Real Estate Investment Connection, owned the former Uptown Theater on Market Street and last June was planning on a restoration project there. Plans called for the newly renovated theater to be open this year.
Those plans have so far not come to fruition.