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New Homeowners Find Surprise

By Prescott Carlson in News on Feb 24, 2008 1:58PM

skeleton.jpgWith foreclosures on the rise, along with the ubiquitousness of television shows like Flip This House and Flipping Out, more and more people are showing up at real estate auctions trying to score a bargain and make a quick buck. And while veteran house flippers know that when you buy a home "as is" you're sure to find a few surprises like termites, water damage, or even a shitload of cats, we'll still bet that the new owners of a graystone in North Kenwood were shocked at their discovery -- a skeleton wearing a red tracksuit. The bones belonged to the home's owner, Randy Johnson, who neighbors say disappeared back in October, 2006.

But the real story uncovered by a Tribune investigation about this house at 4578 S. Oakenwald Avenue is that the home transferred ownership three times without Johnson's remains being discovered. It seems some unscrupulous individuals took advantage of Johnson's absence, using a complex scheme of forged deeds, "straw buyers", and mortgage fraud to steal Johnson's property literally out from under him:

In October 2006, a deed was filed with the Cook County recorder of deeds indicating Johnson's mother, Arrellia Johnson, had transferred the house to a woman named Rhonda Evans.

The deed appeared to have been drawn up 10 years earlier, in 1996, when Arrellia Johnson was still alive, which should have been a red flag that something unusual was going on, real estate attorneys say. The deed bears the signature and notary seal of Mae Evans, who is Rhonda Evans' mother, Missouri birth records show.

Mae Evans also is the mother of Edwin Evans, a convicted rapist and armed robber, who was indicted on mortgage fraud in September.

This new real estate "white collar crime wave" seems to be growing at an alarming pace. [Trib]

Artist rendition of the North Kenwood skeleton from Joe M500