Elderly victim recovers home pilfered by phony bishop

LOS ANGELES - A Pomona Superior Court judge last week granted a motion filed by the district attorney's office on behalf of an elderly victim whose home was swindled three years ago by a so-called church bishop who duped the Claremont woman into signing over the grant deed of her home.Judge Steven Blades granted the motion to declare the two grant deeds in this case "null and void and of no legal effect," deputy district attorney James Daloisio said. "The objective of this motion was to free up this 89-year-old stroke victim's property so that she could use her equity to execute a reverse mortgage as she has no substantial means of support and requires constant medical care," Daloisio said. Leroy Dowd, a 74-year-old self-styled bishop who operated the now-defunct Triumph Church of God in south Los Angeles, allegedly met the victim through church in December 2006. Dowd told the victim that he could help her secure widow's benefits from Medicare and Social Security. Under this guise, he tricked her into signing over the grant deed to her $800,000 home, which was paid in full, prosecutors said. Eight days later, Dowd sold the house to straw buyer Bessie Mae Moore, 63, who borrowed $800,000 from victim lender MortgageIt. At closing, Dowd walked away with more than $775,000, authorities said. Dowd pleaded guilty in May 2010 to one count of grand theft of personal property and was immediately sentenced to three years in state prison. He was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution. Moore pleaded no contest in December 2008 to one misdemeanor count of obtaining money, labor or property by false pretenses. She was sentenced to 98 days in county jail. The prosecutor gave credit to the Claremont Police Department, who investigated the case, for working quickly enough to avoid foreclosure. The district attorney's office worked closely with the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor's fraud investigation unit to reinstate the prior assessed value of the house.

********** Published: June 16, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 9