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Man, woman charged in house-theft case

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Arrest warrants have been issued for a man and a woman for reportedly obtaining false deeds of ownership for a home in Henry County.

According to Henry County Police, the pair are members of an "anti-government" organization, and are suspected of perpetrating similar crimes in DeKalb County.

The duo, whose names were not released, are charged with forgery, said Police Capt. Jason Bolton. The woman, he said, is also charged with theft.

One of the warrants was taken out Friday, according to Bolton, and the other on Tuesday. He said the suspects claim to be members of the Sovereign Citizens group.

"My understanding of the Sovereign Citizens movement is, they have an anti-government ideology, and do not recognize the existing government as being legitimate," Bolton said.

The investigation centers on a house on Belford Way, in the Henry County portion of Jackson, Ga. Bolton said the house was up for sale, when residents in the area reported suspicious activity at the home. "At least one of the neighbors in that area had complained last week in reference to people that weren't supposed to be there," the captain said. "Detectives began an investigation into this, and learned that DeKalb County was working similar cases, possibly involving these same individuals."

An investigator with DeKalb County Police could not be reached Tuesday.

The male suspect, Bolton continued, filed a quit-claim deed on the property in June, in Henry County Superior Court. The deed, the captain said, is one in which a piece of property is signed over from one person to another.

"He filed it from himself, to himself, as if he ever owned it, which he didn't," Bolton said. He added that the man posted paperwork in the windows of the home to support his false claim, even though the house is owned by the Bank of Wrightsville, in Wrightsville, Ga.

"Detectives went out with a representative from the bank who owned the home, who was going to give consent for police to enter the home and try to figure out what was going on," Bolton said. "When they arrived, the locks had been changed at the house. They had to make forced entry to get inside the home, and discovered that there were a number of items ... that had been moved into this home that was owned, still, by the bank."

Pete Powell is the vice president of the bank, who gave police permission to enter the house at the onset of the investigation. He said he became aware of the case July 13, when he was informed by someone in the area that people were staying at the home.

The individual who contacted Powell wishes to be known only as "Scott," in order to protect his identity. He said residents in the area are "dissatisfied" with the police department's response to the case.

"The officer who came out, said it was a civil matter, and that they couldn't do anything about it," he said. "It took them one week to go to the house. I'd like to see them catch these guys, but our problem is, they could have caught these guys if they had acted promptly."

Powell said he became frustrated after he contacted police, and was told the ownership documents on the windows appeared to be legitimate. "I was really livid," Powell said. "I [was] sitting here, wondering what I can do to get these bums out of the house."

The bank executive added that he had the water turned off at the house, at which time, he was told the culprits had taken the water out of the bank's name. Powell said he quickly had the change reversed, but remains an "unhappy camper."

Superior Court Judge Wade Crumbley was approached by police during the investigation, about the possibility of obtaining a search warrant for the property. The judge said it is not appropriate for him to comment on the pending investigation by police.