Is ‘sovereign’ group a cover for real estate rip-offs?

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Earlier this year, someone identifying himself as a representative of the Moorish Science Temple of America sent Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough and City Treasurer Stephanie Neely an “affidavit” informing them they were each being fined $1 million for slander.

Their alleged offense?

They had gone on television to alert Cook County residents to a scheme by which individuals claiming to be members of the Moorish Science Temple had used the organization’s religious status as cover for a series of real estate scams.

Their evidence?

Neely had learned to her chagrin that two years earlier someone from the group had filed false legal documents claiming to be the owner of her home — after already illegally moving into the vacant house next door as part of a scheme that clouded the title of dozens of other properties.

As you might imagine, the $1 million fine had no basis in law, nor apparently do hundreds of other purported legal documents that have been filed in the name of the Moorish Science Temple in recent years, most of them worded in a nearly indecipherable quasi-legal gibberish.

But that hasn’t prevented more such filings from arriving weekly at the Recorder of Deeds office, many from individuals who subscribe to the belief that as members of the Moorish Science Temple, they are exempt from certain U.S. laws, particularly those related to taxation.

In this regard, they fit the ideology of the sovereign citizen movement that was in the news here last week with the federal trial of a woman convicted for filing ridiculous liens against federal judges and prosecutors.

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