SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Action 9 exposed a little-known religious sect that's accused of using bogus property deeds to torment local homeowners.
The deeds were filed within the last three years.
The anti-government group uses its own courts and laws, but Todd Ulrich found it can do real damage.
Valerie Edwards had just bought an Altamonte Springs home when her family received a troubling document. It was a lawsuit that threatened to take away the house.
“It certainly had all the trappings of a legal document,” said Edwards.
The Moorish Science Temple, an obscure religious sect, sued for a default judgment to take over the property. But the lawsuit was filed in the Temple's own Supreme Court, so it seemed ridiculous until Edwards researched the group.
“I was thinking this is really a serious situation and it needs to be stopped,” said Edwards.
Action 9 placed a hidden camera at the Casselberry Public Library, which is where Moorish Temple Supreme Court holds its hearings.
The judge, Reginald Bruton of Melbourne, was dressed in a temple hat. Bruton leads the anti-government group.
Critics call it a “kangaroo court.” But once the Moorish followers have their judgment, they turn up at real courthouses and can do damage.
Habitat for Humanity in Seminole County knows firsthand what trouble it can cause.
“It was a double whammy for us,” said executive director Penny Seater.
Seater said the agency had renovated an Oviedo home for a qualified family, but then could not sell it.
The Moorish Temple filed a bogus deed in Seminole County court, leaving the Habitat family homeless.
“They couldn't move in because they couldn't close. They didn't have clear title,” said Seater.
It took Habitat’s lawyers months to remove the phony deed.
Action 9 found out that the Moorish Temple filed lawsuits against a dozen properties, attempting to take possession.
Todd Ulrich talked to Bruton in Melbourne.
“I'm here about fake lawsuits and deeds you're filing. They hurt real people,” said Ulrich.
“False lawsuits?” replied Bruton. “You say they're fake.”
“You think they're real?” asked Ulrich.
“Yeah, they are,” Bruton said.
Bruton claimed his group has constitutional rights to take over foreclosed properties.
“Can you set up your own government?” asked Ulrich. “Can you be the judge and jury?”
“We select a jury,” said Bruton.
After Action 9’s investigation started, government-backed Fannie Mae won a court injunction, which was filed in October, against the Moorish Temple.
The injunction ordered the group to stop all claims against 11 local properties.
The Moorish Science Temple of America-1928 (national group response) :
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