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Atlanta station wins duPont Award for new twist on foreclosures

WSB-TV Investigative team: Exposing a new twist on the foreclosure epidemic from Alfred I. duPont Awards on Vimeo.

Jodie Fleischer of WSB-TV in Atlanta won a 2012 Alfred I. duPont – Columbia University Award for an investigative series showing a new twist on the foreclosure story: so-called sovereign citizens who allege they are immune from prosecution under state laws. The duPont Awards recognize the best in broadcast journalism from the previous year.

The series reports that the “citizens” file quitclaim deeds in court to transfer ownership of a property to themselves. They post the paperwork in the home’s window and threaten to sue anyone who challenges them. A source in the segment notes:

‘”They’re able to tie up the legal system by filing bogus paperwork and engaging in paper terrorism against anybody who dare comes after them,’ said Assistant District Attorney John Melvin.”

Jodie Fleischer, reporter, WSB-TV, Atlanta

Jodie Fleischer

Jodie sent me a video with her, producer/editor JoshWade and research assistant Sonja King providing details about the series. It’s also available above. They say the story started when an anchor at the station complained that someone had moved into the house next door. The team used that address to start the paper trail that eventually led to the arrest of several people.

Today’s Tip: Follow the paper trail.

Jodie notes that the team started with just one name from police records. Sonja was able to get another name by looking at paperwork before a clerk redacted the information. From there, they searched the courts and found the “new” deed holders and the witnesses to their signatures.

For more on quitclaim deeds, check out this post on how a reporter used the deeds to track hard-money lenders. Use this link for Registers of Deeds by state to find the office in your area.

In Basics, Featured, Investigation, Real estate | Econ development.

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