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October 11, 2016

Lawsuit: Philadelphia woman had new homeowners paying for free city service

Courts Lawsuits
06252015_Gavel Brian Turner/Wikimedia Commons

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State officials have filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a Philadelphia woman who allegedly scammed new homeowners in the city into paying for a service provided for free by the city. 

Inspector General Amy L. Kurland said Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General filed a civil consumer protection lawsuit against Wanda D. Rogers, who allegedly operated the Philadelphia Deeds and Registry Offices — a fictitious government office.

Kurland asked homeowners who might have been victimized by the scheme to contact her office. 

A statement released by Kurland's office claims that Rogers has been accused of misrepresenting a government entity for personal gain.

The lawsuit was filed following an investigation conducted by the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General, the Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Philadelphia Department of Records, and the Philadelphia Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Rogers sent letters to new Philadelphia homeowners offering give them a copy of their deed, if the homeowner completed a form and paid a processing fee, the lawsuit claims. 

Such a service is provided by the city at no cost to homeowners. 

“The city provides services at no cost to the public, and those services should never be misappropriated for private gain,” said Kurland in a statement. “We can’t allow people to take advantage of the public’s trust in government.”

Some of the letters sent to homeowners, the lawsuit notes, bore the seal of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and were signed by two fictional employees of the fake "Deeds and Registry" government office. 

The lawsuit alleges that Rogers violated Consumer Protection Law by deceiving consumers about a connection between her office and the City of Philadelphia.

In addition to restitution for consumers, the lawsuit seeks civil penalties of $1,000 for every violation of the Consumer Protection Law, and $3,000 for every violation involving consumers who are 60 years or older.

“As the official responsible for the integrity of the City’s land title records, I take matters like these very seriously,” said James P. Leonard, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Records, in a statement. “Left unchecked, scams like these can erode the public’s confidence in the city’s deed recording system and often disproportionately affect our most vulnerable citizens.”

The lawsuit was filed by Deputy Attorney General Nicole R. DiTomo of the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Anyone victimized by this scheme is asked to contact the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General at 215-686-1770 or the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Bureau at 1-800-441-2555.