Two Georgians and one Mississippi woman have been sentenced for their roles in a scheme to steal houses from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Georgia natives 47-year-old Barry Martin and 59-year-old Fiesta Kagler were sentenced to serve nearly four years while Ella Martin — a Jayess resident and former USDA employee — was sentenced to spend a little under three years in prison.
According to court documents, the defendants conspired to identify and steal USDA-mortgaged properties through the Brookhaven office of USDA Rural Development.
The agency aims to help rural residents buy or rent safe, affordable housing, especially low and very low income individuals.
As an employee of that office, Ella Martin had access to a list of abandoned, foreclosed, nearly-foreclosed, or similarly distressed USDA-mortgaged properties. She would then create fraudulent warranty deeds designed to convey ownership of those properties to her co-conspirators and others.
The fraudulent deeds included forged signatures from former homeowners, including at least one deceased individual.
Each deed was later filed in chancery courts throughout Mississippi with the intent to take away the benefit of the properties from the owners, as well as to deprive the government of the actual value of the properties.
All three defendants will be required to pay restitution, which will be determined at a separate hearing.
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