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Lawmaker tries, fails to block erroneous deeds

Registers of deeds battling erroneous deeds filed in the name of the Moorish Science Temple of America will get no intervention from the state — at least for now.

In the wake of a July 5 Mecklenburg Times story on the scam, state Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Waxhaw, tried Thursday to introduce emergency legislation to curtail the problem. But because the ongoing session of the legislature is a special one — in which only vetoes, redistricting and constitutional amendments can be considered — his legislation cannot be considered.

Tucker said he isn’t giving up on the legislation and plans to co-sponsor a bill with Sen. Daniel Clodfelter, D-Charlotte, in the May session.

In the scam, those claiming affiliation with the MSTOA file deeds claiming ownership of properties, usually vacant and foreclosed ones. Registers of deeds in Mecklenburg and Union counties have reported being bombarded with such deeds. In a July 15 statement, the MSTOA says it is “empathetic to those who have been fraudulently misled by those who claim to be affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple of America.”

Last month, two Charlotte men were arrested after an illegitimate deed was filed in the name of the MSTAO for a $700,000 Weddington home in Union County. Kenneth W. Lewis and Asaru A. Ali have been charged in the case, in which police allege that the locks had been changed on the foreclosed home. Ali, 39, is of 2619 Century Oaks Lane, and Lewis, 53, is of 2909 Burgess Drive, No. 1.

Registers of deeds say they have no choice but to accept the deeds as long as they conform to filing requirements. State legislation would need to be passed to give registers of deeds the ability to reject deeds that are blatantly false.

Tara Ramsey contributed to this report. She can be reached at tara.ramsey@mecktimes.com.

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