UPDATE: Last week John Eugene Harris was found guilty of stealing houses and this week he's been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the crime, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
According to prosecutors, the Smyrna man would find homes that appeared to be abandoned, change the locks, move in unsuspecting tenants and collect rent all under the guise of his company New Life Granted. The AJC said Harris thought that ultimately lenders would be forced to accept the tenants placed in the homes.
ORIGINAL STORY: A Cobb County jury has found John Eugene Harris of Smyrna guilty of 34 counts of offenses ranging from burglary, forgery, theft by taking and racketeering.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Thursday that Harris’s company New Life Granted was operating a house-stealing scheme in which he posed as a leasing agent for homes that were in foreclosure and leased them to unknowing renters.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch could not find any information about New Life Granted outside a Better Business Bureau listing giving the business an F due to concerns about New Life Granted's industry and insufficient background about the business.
Harris, who represented himself at the trial, said the idea behind his company was to find homes he thought were abandoned and move people into them. The AJC said that he claimed that the banks foreclosing on the homes would be forced to accept the new tenants.
Authorities claim Harris broke into the abandoned homes and changed the locks before collecting rent and security deposits from tenants who didn’t know they were living in homes Harris has no legal rights to rent.
The AJC reported that Harris could spend as many as 61 years in prison. He will be sentenced on May 25.