Image: ThinkStock
Image: ThinkStock

WE’RE HEARING about a $100 billion dollar lien on a residential home in Detroit, Michigan. This is not a typo. Sure you have all heard stories about hard times in Detroit. How there is now a financial emergency manager appointed by the Governor who is running the City. How sometimes a home will sell in Detroit for only a few thousand dollars. But things are looking up. The Tigers are gearing up for another run at the pennant and maybe will win the World Series this year. And, there was a 100 billion dollar lien on a residential home. At least for a little while.

I came across this story while reading a recent criminal case out of the MI Court of Appeals entitled People v. Johnson-El, Docket No 306880, decided 3/7/13. Turns out that in July of 2010 a Mr. Johnson-El recorded an Affidavit of “Allodial Title” with the Wayne County (Detroit is in Wayne County MI) Register of Deeds against a certain residential home. In the Affidavit, Johnson-El claimed that he owned the property and that the value of the property was secured by a $100 billion dollar bond of which he was the secured party.

Truth be told I have never heard of the term “Allodial Title” before I read this case. Apparently it means absolute ownership of property over which no one can bring a superior claim. Well actually someone can bring a superior claim especially when the person making the claim of “Allodial Title” has no legal basis to do so.

Johnson-El based his claim of Allodial (superior ) title to the property because he is a “Washitaw Moor.” Apparently people belonging to this group claim a mixture of Native American and African heritage and assert that they are a nation within the United States. A Federal Appellate Court has called this group “fictional.” People in this group apparently believe that they own all the land in Michigan. And why stop there? They also believe they own all the land in the United States of America except for the original thirteen colonies and for some reason Texas.

Johnson-El also filed Affidavits of Allodial title on “several” other properties in the Detroit area. These actions on his part “clouded” the title to the true owner’s properties. Clouded is a synonym for messed up or screwed up. Johnson-El apparently finally got caught because one of the properties was trying to be sold. A Realtor had contacted Johnson-El about his Affidavit of Allodial title in an effort to get a deal closed. According to the Realtor, Johnson-El warned him not to close the sale or something unpleasant would happen.

Well something unpleasant did happen. Johnson-El was convicted of forgery, uttering and publishing and encumbering real property without lawful cause. According to the court, recording a false mortgage or deed is equal to the crime of uttering and publishing. Johnson-El’s conviction was upheld on appeal. 

Clearly this falls under the category of strange but true real estate tales. Maybe the fees to recorded documents should be higher to discourage these kinds of things. Imagine if you had a simple loan you were trying to close and something crazy like this popped up. Imagine trying to explain this to your customer.

Based in Chelsea, Mich., John McDermott is a real estate and elder care attorney who represents both consumers and businesses. He can be emailed at