Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announces indictment in real estate fraud case
Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced the indictment of Willie J. Howard (aka William D. Howard) (DOB 7-27-64) for 2 counts of Tampering with Records (Felony 3), 2 counts of Forgery (Felony 3) and 11 counts of Theft (Felonies 4,5). If convicted of all charges, Howard faces the possibility of significant jail time.
Howard is charged with forging title documents to abandoned, foreclosed or vacant properties between August 1, 2014 to May 18, 2015 and then “selling” or “leasing” the properties to innocent victims. Howard would find properties that appeared to have been abandoned or unoccupied and then forge the necessary legal documents to obtain title to the property in the name of “WDH Investments.” He would then sell or lease with intent to sell the property to innocent victims who were unaware that he did not have legal title to the properties. Howard found all of his victims through his Craigslist advertisements.
The scam came to the attention of authorities in late 2014 or early 2015 when a property owner noticed that someone was living in property that he owned. After that initial call, several other owners called authorities to report similar crimes. The Hamilton County Auditor’s Office also became concerned about repeated transactions involving “WDH Investments.”
A task force was formed to investigate. The Colerain Police Department, the St. Bernard Police Department, Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office all participated in the task force. The properties were located in Colerain, Cincinnati, St. Bernard, North College Hill and Springfield Township.
Total loss is estimated in excess of $150,000.00. The loss includes monies paid to Howard for sale of the property or lease with option to purchase rent payments.
The investigation continues and anyone with information about Mr. Howard and these types of real estate transactions should contact the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Chief Investigator McKinley Brown, at 513-946-3275.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters commented, “There are real victims in this case. Some of these victims did not have a lot of money and used their life savings to purchase and fix up what they thought would be their home. Howard’s greed ruined a lot of lives. I give credit to the members of the task force for their hard work in shutting down this scam.”