Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that Blaine Murphy (aka Bryce Peters, III and Martin J. Franks) and Bryce Peters Financial Corporation, Inc. were indicted on charges of illegally "flipping" 235 houses in Cuyahoga County by filing forged deeds to these properties.
Murphy, 43, of Naples, Florida, forged the deeds as an individual named Bryce Peters, III. The indictment includes properties located in 14 other Ohio counties.
Murphy was the key participant in this nationwide enterprise that includes real estate in many states with the most activity occurring in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Texas. From 2005 to 2010, the purpose of the enterprise was to make a quick profit by selling houses in Cuyahoga County, and the enterprise did so by filing forged deeds and engaging in related conduct. Of the 235 houses sold in Cuyahoga County, 186 properties were in Cleveland, 31 properties in East Cleveland, 5 properties in Warrensville Heights, 4 properties in Euclid, 3 properties in Cleveland Heights, 3 properties in Shaker Heights, 2 properties in Maple Heights, and 1 property in Garfield Heights. 96 properties fell into Tax Foreclosure for a total tax delinquency of $1,032,849.84.
Murphy and his company were indicted on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (RICO), possessing criminal tools, money laundering, and tampering with records. Murphy is also indicted on charges of acting as an officer of an unlicensed foreign corporation, and operating an unlicensed foreign corporation. The indictment seeks forfeiture of the 79 properties currently owned by Murphy's company. This is the first time a "house flipper" has been charged for using fictitious identifications to forge deeds and other documents.
The enterprise existed in two phases. First, acquisitions were made with little or no regard for the condition of each property. In his quest to make a fast profit, Murphy ignored property code violations and payments of taxes at the expense of these communities in Cuyahoga County. Secondly, Murphy sold these properties in bulk or individually for a quick profit to various buyers, essentially in the same manner as these properties were acquired.
The forgeries hid the real identity of Murphy and made it difficult, if not impossible, for communities in Cuyahoga County to make contact with the individual or individuals responsible for the condition and maintenance of the properties. In an attempt to combat repeated housing code violations, Cleveland Municipal Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka held Murphy and his corporation in contempt of court and levied fines for failure to appear in the amount of $9.5 million dollars. These forgeries aided the defendants in avoiding detection. The Cleveland office of the FBI investigated this matter in cooperation with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said, "Cuyahoga County has brought to justice an individual who is responsible for causing millions of dollars in damages and ruining whole neighborhoods across Ohio and the Midwest. Today is a triumph of justice over greed."
The investigation of others who aided and abetted Blaine Murphy (aka Bryce Peters, III - aka Martin J. Franks) and Bryce Peters Financial Corporation, Inc. continues.