Woman Discovers House Was Stolen in Real Estate Rip-Off

More ABC News Videos | ABC World News

Let’s play this game. Here’s a question for you tonight. Is your home for sale or for rent without you knowing it? It’s one of the most outrageous squ scams going. People rent your home, only to learn you already own it. The cash they spent, already gone.
Gio Benitez takes us on the police raid.
Reporter: It’s probably not every day that you make a phone call like this. Hi, this is Shannon again. I’m being ambushed by a news crew.
Reporter: But for real estate broker Shannon lee, business as usual is business un-usual.
Can you please stop recording me?
Reporter: We’re in this parking lot to ask why she’s a broker who doesn’t sell houses, but allegedly steals them instead. It’s a real estate ripoff popular with con artists all across the country. A new kind of foreclosure scheme. The deals were illegal.
Reporter: In case after case, this scam has targeted houses that owners walked away from after some financial after some financial trouble. Stuck in limbo before bank foreclosure kicks in. It wasn’t until she received a gas bill addressed to the deceased former owner that she did some research and found a deed, which is not in Hodge’s name.
Reporter: But few fraudsters were as good as police say Shannon lee was. Her tale begins here in this prosperous corner of prince Georges county, Maryland. On the day Laverne green walked up to her townhouse mailbox. You came over here to check your mail, to put your key in, and what happened?
Right, it didn’t work.
Reporter: Laverne had enough trouble already. Divorcing and downsizing, she and her husband had abandoned their townhouse and faced losing it to the bank. One day she stopped by to check on things, and walked into an unwelcome surprise.
The locks are changed? This lady comes to the door, and she said that she was renting the property. I’m like, “How can you rent this property? This is my house.”
Reporter: Here’s how. The mysterious renters said they got the place through Shannon lee, apparently a legit real estate broker.
They got her on the phone and minutes later, Shannon zoomed up. This lady pulls up in this black BMW, she jumps out of the car, and she said,
“Well, I bought this property through a tax sale.” I asked her did she have the deeds and everything to the house, she said, “Oh yeah I’ve got everything.”
Reporter: Shannon had actually taken control of Laverne’s house, then turned around and rented it out. Nobody suspected that someone would actually advertise a property they didn’t own and collect rent on it.
Reporter: State’s attorney Angela Alsobrooks says this type of scam only works if the real homeowner isn’t around to notice. But Laverne green not only missed her house, she also had connections. Well, she picked the house of a person who worked for the police department, and that’s bad luck.
Reporter: That’s right. Here’s Laverne at her desk, working for the prince George’s county cops. So forget calling 911. All she had to do was walk down the hall to ask co-worker lt. Charles duelley for help. You must have looked at this stuff and said,
“This case is crazy!” It’s the most different case that I’ve, that I’ve worked in my career.
Reporter: Duelley got a search warrant for Shannon’s place, and discovered deeds he says were forged for six homes. Plus evidence of an even bigger scheme in progress.
I identified probably 15 to 20 other properties. That had been targeted.
Reporter: Duelley believes Shannon’s devious scheme started with scouting trips, searching for houses that appeared vacant, grass not freshly mowed, no curtains in the windows. All signs of pending foreclosure. So she kept notes of her own potentially illegal activity?
Reporter: He says she compiled these meticulous reports of potential targets, noting here that an owner had passed away, that another property was secured with two lock boxes. And even breaking in to take photos like these. Shannon’s next step, using a blank deed transfer, adding her name as buyer, bogus seller signatures and a fake notary seal. The final step, walking into the county records department, to officially enter the forged deed into the public record. Then, police say, she was ready to cash in. We fell in love with it.
Reporter: That’s where unsuspecting victims charrise and Michael Stewart come in. They’d answered an ad Shannon lee had posted to rent this house.
It was everything we wanted in a house and the price was right.
Reporter: So they signed the lease, despite some suspicious red flags.
From the outside you can see the damage done to the locks of the door. As if someone busted in the door, changed the locks on the door.
Reporter: Shannon’s excuse, she had trouble changing the locks.
Okay, but even stranger, why were there no electric bills arriving from pepco, the local utility company? We had been calling pepco every month, like, hey, we’re not getting a bill, we’re afraid the power’s going to be turned off, what’s going on? They can’t find us in the system.
Reporter: The police investigation later revealed that to keep the house theft from being discovered, Shannon had dangerously rigged the meter, pirating the electricity. Pretty gutsy.
Yeah, very gutsy.
Reporter: Meanwhile police say Shannon, along with her alleged partner in crime Qiana Johnson, were collecting rent from this and other properties they’d stolen and allegedly even sold one for a pile of cash. You believe she really felt like she was going to get away with this?
Yes, absolutely. She had had herself convinced that the paperwork was of good enough quality on the forgeries that she was, I think she thought she was in the clear.
Reporter: And duelley discovered that Shannon and Qiana had taken this house hustle to a whole new level. They weren’t just renting and selling the pinched properties, they were actually living in some of them too!
It’s bananas. Like it’s honestly crazy.
Reporter: When we come back, it’s time for a house call, with the sheriff’s department. So sergeant, it’s 6:00 A.M., we’re going to that house, she has no idea we are coming? That’s correct. Element of surprise. Reporter: Stay with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE