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From New Jersey to California, police, courthouse officials and real estate agents are being confronted with a baffling new problem: bogus legal documents filed by people claiming to follow an obscure religion called Moorish Science. Their motives range from financial gain to simply causing a nuisance.

No one is more exasperated by the phenomenon than the leaders of the century-old Moorish Science Temple of America, who say the growing crop of "paperwork terrorists" has nothing to do with their faith or its teachings.

"It's just distressing that some individuals would take something as pure and righteous as this organization and try to tarnish it," said Christopher Bennett-Bey, grand sheikh of the group's temple in Charlotte, one of more than 30 located around the country.

It's not clear why the flimflam artists are invoking the group. But one expert said divisions dating back to the death of the sect's founder have resulted in small pockets of people who claim to be followers but have little understanding of the faith.

The bad filings include deeds, liens and other documents, often written in confusing pseudo-legal jargon and making outlandish claims about being exempt from U.S. law. In some cases, filers have actually moved into foreclosed houses and changed the locks. Other times, people seeking to slip their mortgages have used bogus documents to waste the time and money of their banks. Fake liens have also been maliciously filed to target enemies.


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