12 face charges in Mercer County real estate scams

Posted: Updated:
12 face charges in Mercer County real estate scams 12 face charges in Mercer County real estate scams
MERCER COUNTY -

A dozen people are facing charges for allegedly pulling off an elaborate housing scheme.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office says that the crimes date back to 2016. The scammers allegedly broke into vacant and foreclosed homes, changed the locks and then rented the properties out to unsuspecting tenants.

“A real estate agent, a bank agent or a property management company who would call and say to the police, ‘This property is supposed to be vacant,’” explains Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.

The 12-person operation was allegedly led by 48-year-old Trenton resident Barbara Brooks.

“They would create fake lease documents. Some of the lease documents did look fake,” Onofri says. “Pages were crooked, pages were missing. Not something you would expect from a professional real estate agent.”

Officials say that Brooks would locate the target houses online using popular rental websites and that she would train the fake tenants on how to get away with it if police showed up on their door steps.

Brooks also allegedly enlisted the help of Michael Wilmore, a Trenton Water Works employee, who would turn on water service to the properties.

“The individuals would either move in themselves or lease to unsuspecting renters,” the prosecutor says.

Latasha Love, 32, is accused of living rent-free for months at a home on Sabrina Drive in Ewing. She was also allegedly part of the scheme.

Onofri says that he credits local law enforcement for helping to break the case. He says that similar crimes are happening nationwide.  He is asking the public to be vigilant in helping officials stop future incidents.

“If you see somebody there illegally, call the police right away,” he says.

The crew is facing numerous charges, including theft of services and burglary. They could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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