CHICAGO (WLS) --Hopeful homeowners say they thought they were investing in properties but instead they lost thousands of dollars.
Customers say they trusted the people offering deals because they attended business meetings at church. They say they paid thousands of dollars to obtain abandoned or foreclosed homes.
However, about eight months later, they said their money is gone.
Celeste Pearson Dixon and Pierre Walker said they spent thousands on what they thought were down payments for homes. Both said they have "construction contracts" with a company called Transglobal Development.
"If we can just stop him from trying to sell this pipe dream to somebody else and taking somebody else's hard earned money," Pearson Dixon said.
They say they learned about the list of abandoned and foreclosed homes from a man named Deotis Taylor, who they met at a meeting at a West Side church.
Taylor and his company, Transglobal Development, are being investigated by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office.
"He goes by Cmdr. Taylor, Rev. Taylor, Pastor Taylor. He refers to himself as being a part of law enforcement," said Mario Reed, the property fraud unit director for the Recorder of Deeds Office.
Reed shared his hidden-camera footage of the church meetings with the I-Team.
In the meetings, Taylor mentions available properties but he does not specifically tell people how they can obtain them.
However, the Recorder of Deeds office said that its investigation has uncovered evidence that Taylor holds secondary, private meetings where he says he can help get people homes, if they give him money.
"We have information which confirms that people do believe, that based on what he's offering, they are eventually going to be led to home ownership or property ownership," Reed said. "I personally have heard him asking for money for properties and lists."
Reed said "potential victims number in the dozens right now."
"I feel taken," Walker said.
Pearson Dixon and Walker said Taylor told them to make their down payments to a man named Gerald Warren. They also showed us these text messages that appear to indicate possible closing dates. The Recorder of Deeds office said
Warren is affiliated with the church meetings.
"Gerald Warren and Otis Taylor met with us on two different occasions. On both occasions we discussed the properties, we discussed the closing," Walker said.
But they said their closings were cancelled at the last minute. Eight months later, they haven't gotten their money back.
It's a hard pill to swallow for Pearson Dixon who's a real estate agent.
"For me, to be in the position to be taken advantage of and my hard earned money, I have kids in college, I work hard," Pearson Dixon said.
When calls went unanswered, the I-Team stopped by the church before Taylor's meeting.
Off camera, he admitted he is Taylor. Then he denied knowing the two consumers who called us, saying someone must have used his company's name.
The I-Team also caught up with Gerald Warren, who ran from our camera.
"Here it is, we have earnest money out there for properties we have not obtained," Pearson Dixon said. "Our money should come back to us"
The Recorder of Deeds office said if an investigation is completed, they it will pass along findings to the Attorney General's Office and the Cook County State's Attorney's Financial Crimes Unit.
Experts told the I-Team that property buyers don't need a middle man to get these type of government owned properties.
The Department of Buildings maintains a list of the properties that are available, as well as an application form. Each link has information about how people can acquire the properties. To view the list, click here.
FROM THE RECORDER OF DEEDS OFFICE
Step 1: Check with the Clerk of the Circuit Court's website to ensure that a particular property has been approved for a foreclosure sale. Such an entry will be included in the disposition of that particular property and will be toward the absolute bottom of the list of entries. The Clerk of the Circuit Court's website allows for an online docket search, and from there, the consumer would simply put in the case number (which can be obtained from the Chain of Title via the Recorder of Deeds website) or they can search by defendant, date or year. Click here to visit the Clerk of the Circuit Court's website.
Step 2: Once the consumer has verified that the order for the sale of the property has been granted by the presiding judge, they can then visit a website such as this one: http://cook.ilfls.com/ to view when and where the upcoming foreclosure auctions are going to take place. For cook county, the majority of properties are sold via The Judicial Sales Corporation which is located at One South Wacker Drive, 24th Floor, Chicago, Ill., or via their website: www.tjsc.com. Those auctions are available to the public and they list their terms and conditions, but I would caution any consumer seeking to purchase directly from the Foreclosure auction because it's a site-unseen purchase (meaning that the property could be in terrible shape internally) and they take the property as-is, so any and all outstanding liens would need to be extinguished by the purchaser before clear/clean title can transfer. In addition to those two major hurdles, the property doesn't become the purchaser's at that moment, they usually have to wait another thirty days before the judge in the foreclosure case finalizes the property. As one last item which few people know about, foreclosures usually carry high water bills with them, so whomever purchases the property has to resolve the outstanding water bill before they can record the deed and/or turn on the water to begin working in the property.
There is no Cook County agency which formally provides or compiles a list of foreclosed properties because that list and information is forever changing. The average amount of time between a property has the foreclosure proceedings initiated against it to when the process is completed and the sale takes place is typically 18 to 24 months, but can definitely take longer -- which is why it's virtually impossible to compose an accurate list of homes which are slated to go to the actual foreclosure auction.