Not even a stint in a Kentucky prison cell could stop serial counterfeiter and forger Kenneth Hampton from engaging in one of Philadelphia's oldest real estate scams, federal prosecutors said.
In an indictment unsealed Tuesday, Hampton, 54, was charged with recruiting three family members in a scheme to steal two West Philadelphia rowhouses by filing fraudulent deeds with the city's Department of Records.
All told, investigators say, Hampton caused $87,000 in losses and kept potential property buyers tied up in court for months.
From his prison cell, Hampton directed his family on how to forge deeds of transfer and helped select apparently abandoned properties whose registered owners had recently died, prosecutors said.
At the time, he was serving a seven-year sentence for a scheme to bleach $5 bills in hopes of turning them into counterfeit $100s, a strategy he cooked up while on probation at a federal halfway house.
Hampton's rap sheet also includes convictions for staging car accidents to file false insurance claims, cocaine trafficking, and using fake IDs to apply for Best Buy credit cards.
In the real estate scam, Hampton and his kin first set their sights on a two-story, three-bedroom rowhouse on South 58th Street.
In 2009, Hampton's brother, Ellis, allegedly filed a deed of transfer with forged signatures from the property's previous owners, claiming they were his grandparents.
The next year, he sold the property for $27,000 to WERE Inventory L.L.C., an affordable-housing developer.
Prosecutors say the Hampton family ran its scheme again in July 2010, taking a $20,000, three-bedroom house on the 5300 block of Delancey Street and selling it for $10,000.
The Philadelphia Department of Records, which handles deed transfers, has long been plagued by scammers filing forged documents.
The office is required to record any deed that bears a notary's stamp and has the signatures of both the buyer and the seller. Officials have complained for years that they lack the ability or personnel to verify authenticity or check for forgeries.
Hampton, who has since been moved to a federal prison in Hopewell, Va., now faces charges that include conspiracy, wire fraud, and identity theft.
Hampton's brother, Ellis, of Darby and his son, Terrell, and fiancée, Roxanne Mason, both of Philadelphia, have also been charged.
It was unclear Wednesday whether Hampton had retained a lawyer.