RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper obtained a court order on Wednesday to stop a group that allegedly attempted to claim ownership of foreclosed properties by filing fraudulent deeds and liens.

A temporary restraining order obtained by Cooper bars Natural International Land Trust, ONCE International Land Trust, Nu Vision International Trust and several individuals from attempting to take possession of homes by the filing of deeds and other documents that have no legal basis. The order also bars the defendants from destroying any records and requires the defendants to turn information over to Cooper's office.

"Pretending that you can own a home just by filing phony paperwork filled with gibberish is an insult to honest homeowners and a fraud on the whole system," Cooper said.

The defendants allegedly identified foreclosed homes for sale in Raleigh, Wake Forest and Apex. They then allegedly filed fraudulent paperwork with the Wake County Register of Deeds to transfer the properties to themselves.

In addition, the defendants allegedly filed $1.2 million in common law liens on properties which were filed with phony legal language that was taken from the Internet and were designed to intimidate the actual property owners and potential buyers into thinking that the property couldn't be sold without paying the false lien.

In addition to the temporary restraining order, Cooper is seeking a permanent order against the trusts and the individuals who are allegedly behind them, including Shawn Adrian Pendergraft, Nathaniel John Church, Don Cornelius McCullers, Malandie Terrell Winston, Montreal Lee White and Lawrence Christopher White.

Shawn Pendergraft, the lawsuit alleges, has stated publicly that he was "working the system" and that anyone could file false documents with the Register of Deeds. Only someone with actual ownership interest in a property, however, can be file a valid deed legally transferring ownership.

In a complaint filed this week by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, the court was also asked to make the defendants pay civil penalties.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction in the case is scheduled for Friday, August 19.

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