By DANIEL HERATY
Three were charged Thursday in connection with an alleged real estate flipping scheme that involved properties in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Detroit.
Samer Zahr, 37, and his wife, Chirine Ghandour, 29, both of Dearborn; and Zahr’s mother, Rajaa Zahr, 53, of Dearborn Heights, were arraigned in 19th District Court. The charges came following an investigation involving the Wayne County Deed Fraud Task Force, comprising Wayne County Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
The three also are accused of four years of small business loan fraud starting in 2004. From that year through 2007 Samer Zahr allegedly bought homes and sold them to his mother at an inflated price.
After buying the houses, Rajaa Zahr would provide fraudulent financial information to lending institutions to obtain a mortgage. When she received the money for the properties, she would spend the money. She then would default on the loans, and the properties would go into foreclosure.
Properties affected included four houses, including in the 8000 block of Riverview in Dearborn Heights and a house in the 15000 block of Tireman in Dearborn.
“Deed and mortgage fraud are significant crimes that must be investigated and prosecuted,” Youngblood said in a statement. “Victims lose their homes and life savings, senior citizens find themselves out on the street, mortgage rates go up, and last but not least, property values go down. “Many of the properties subject to this type of fraud end up abandoned, making fertile ground for other types of crimes.”
Samer Zahr and Ghandour used the money for personal and business expenses, according to officials at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
In 2005, Ghandour and her husband allegedly engaged in fraud to obtain a series of small business loans that were to be used for his businesses, totalling about $200,000.
Also involved were the Michigan State Police, the Secret Service and the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General.
In 2005, Youngblood, Worthy, and former Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans instituted the task force, which was originally financed by the Register of Deeds.
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected].)