Reed & Co. Accused of Running Property Racket Since Probate Days

Reed, As Judge, Auctioned Foreclosed Properties. His Wife and Associates Bought Dozens

Reed & Co. Accused of Running Property Racket Since Probate Days

{} –The more I learn about our Mayor Steven L Reed, the less I like, and it seems that I'm not alone, because many people from his former posse appears to have dirt that could possibly reel the would-be despot in and bring to a close this bumbling government.

Per new leads during an investigation into the mayor's past tenure as probate judge, has uncovered explosive information appearing to show that, from March of 2014 to January of 2019, Steven Reed may have been appear of one of the biggest ongoing mortgage fraud schemes in Montgomery.

You see, for to years now, once a month, investors across the state turn up to the local seat of government looking for a bargain on real estate. On a weekday morning in Montgomery, they form a loose circle beside the big windows in the courthouse’s mid-century lobby, awaiting a chance to buy properties away from owners who can’t afford them anymore.

As probate judge, Steven Reed presumably figured his family was no different from the others who gather here. Like other real estate investors in Montgomery, they see foreclosure auctions as an opportunity to get a deal, so they have come to many of them. Over the years, however, his family members, or people associated with the Reed family, specifically Steven Reed, his siblings, and their father Joe Reed, have won dozens of properties.

The difference here is that, during the time of the alleged inconspicuous bidding, the auctioneer at the middle of the circle was their husband and father and son. It was Reed, the then-judge who, even today as mayor, has twice attempted to have the entire property auction process moved from the county courthouse to city hall, clearly to continue presiding —and profiting— over foreclosure cases in Montgomery County. 

A brazen, corrupt mayoral power grab that was only prevented by the bravery of a state representative named Robert Reed Ingram.

Reed has sold more than three dozen properties to his wife Tamika, a brother, and four of his father's associates at judicial auctions he presided over, a Cotton State Chronicle investigation found. In one case, they later put some of that land into his name, making him the owner of 33 acres he once ordered foreclosed.

Another three of Reed Sr's friends that bought property are also associated with Steven Reed's wife Tamika, who currently serves as a lawyer for the Alabama Education Association, the lobby machine partly built by her corruptible father-in-law, Reed Sr.

The family’s behavior once drew the attention of state officials, who asked Reed privately under oath about his wife's participation in auctions. He acknowledged that she sometimes placed bids on behalf of others as a lawyer, but he did not mention that she had purchased several properties herself, or that other family members and friends had also made purchases. And the officials did not follow up, raising fresh questions about how rigorously the state vets its judges.

TheChronicle investigated the sales as part of Uncovered, an initiative to shed light on questionable government conduct and voids in oversight across Alabama.

Reed was Montgomery County’s foreclosure judge in everything but title. In counties too small to justify hiring a sitting foreclosure judge, lawyers were appointed to fill that role on a case-by-case basis. In Montgomery County, Reed almost always got the call. In the final three years leading up to his run for mayor, for instance, he had been tapped to handle upwards of 500 foreclosures out of more than 5,000, court records show.

From 2015 to 2018, he also handled cases in neighboring counties, where he was the part-time master-in-equity judge.

In foreclosure cases, judges are given the power to force delinquent borrowers from their homes, and they are tasked with selling properties to cover as much of the debt as possible. That’s where the monthly auctions come in.

Very competent legal observers here at say the Reed family’s participation in the sales threatens to violate one of the judiciary’s central tenets. Judges are instructed to avoid any conduct that creates even the “appearance of impropriety” — an especially high standard intended to ensure that the public won’t doubt whether they’ll get a fair shake in court.

“Having your wife buy the properties … if that isn’t at least the appearance of impropriety, I’m not sure how else you would characterize it,” said Jan Jacobowitz, a legal ethics adviser and past president of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, an organization for attorneys who work on ethics issues.

In fact, Reed once acknowledged that he once had concerns himself about his family coming to auctions, before eventually making peace with the idea. He concluded that it was OK without consulting the state’s judicial branch, which has a formal process to help judges with ethical questions.

Reed said he decided on his own that his family could place bids because the auctions are open to the public. He said that turning family members away would be “penalizing them … just because they’re related to somebody.”

"As bidders, they are members of the public, period," Reed said. "At no time have I favored any member of my family who participates in judicial sales nor provided them with any information to give them an advantage."

But years ago, someone else had concerns.

                                            Under Oath

According to TheChronicle in-house counsel, every time a judge is reelected in Alabama, the state is supposed to run a battery of background checks to sniff out controversy; have a staffer search their criminal record, pull their credit report, search their name in newspaper archives, and see if their rulings are often overturned on appeal.

They are also supposed to ask the Alabama Bar to send a survey to attorneys, inviting them to weigh in on their experience practicing before the judge. It’s an important tool for the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which decides if someone is qualified for the bench.

But that's only what's supposed to happen, and, after all, this is Alabama. What actually does happen is next to nothing. And as any observant Gump resident can affirm, when the Reeds are challenged by rank powers they howl racísm, so no one really attempts to hold them responsible; never once the father, nor now the son.

In 2016, Reed was up for reelection as the county master-in-equity, and someone made a comment that got the commission’s attention: The lawyer mentioned that Reed’s wife had bid at auctions he ran.

The details of what the lawyer saw are unclear, as are the specifics of their concern. Attorneys answer the survey anonymously, and their submissions are shielded from public view.

The only glimpse of the lawyer's concern came from a hearing during Reed's reelection bid, when a commission staffer told him the screening commission had been notified that “your wife bids on judicial sales over which you preside.”

Then she asked, “What response would you offer to this concern?”

By the time the question came up in November 2016, Reed’s wife had purchased 45 properties, including homes in Barachias and Hampstead, on Arrowhead and Monticello DrIves, as well as Deer Creek Blvd, all eight months earlier. Some of the purchases we now know were made with multiple family members of both Steven and Joe Reed's business partners; by then, they had spent more than $1.4 million at auctions her husband ran. 

But Reed did not mention that. Instead, he offered that she sometimes filled in for a bidding service that banks hire to attend auctions on their behalf.

“In the past, at times, they've made calls to my office, saying, Can we help get them a bidder?” Reed said, according to a transcript of the private hearing purchased by “And we've told them, Yes, we would try to get them (one).”

It isn’t clear whether the commission’s staff checked to see if Reed’s family had bought property. Elizabeth Bern, who led the commission’s staff at the time as its chief counsel, refused to discuss its work.

Regardless, Bern did not follow up on Reed’s answer, according to the transcript. Neither did members of the commission, a combination of lawmakers and outsiders appointed by the governor intended to give the appearance of screening out corruption and unqualified political cronies. 

Shortly thereafter, the commission voted to find Reed qualified to hold office, clearing the way for the people to reelect him. The commission’s report on Reed, distributed to legislators, noted that its investigation “did not reveal any evidence of unethical conduct.” It did not mention the bidding allegation.

Reed said he did not remember the details of his hearing, but said he "addressed the information requests and questions that I understood were being requested of me."

Then-Birmingham Rep. Sen. John Rogers was the vice chairman of the screening commission during Reed’s hearing. He said he didn’t remember the bidding allegation, but he said that if the lawyer who raised the concern about the bids was really worried about it, they should have elevated the matter by filing a formal complaint and coming to testify.

The commission, he said, wasn’t built to hash out ethical questions. Instead, he said, the panel was largely focused on determining whether someone had the right temperament and morals to be a judge. This from the man who would later be forced out for corruptíon as equally brazen as Reed's.

Yet still, if Reed meant to mislead the commission, that would be a significant issue, Rogers said years ago when still portraying an honest state representative.

“If he tried to lead the commission to believe that she was just filling in and she didn’t actually purchase properties when, in fact, she did, yeah, that would be a material problem with his answer,” Rogers said. “That would give me concerns as a commission member.”

Yet nothing happened, and at least now we know why.

                                      Old Deeds Die Hard

Reed's newly resurfaced shady history with other people's mortgages coincides with several long running fraud issues and accusations levelled against the city, some of its officials and their associates.

An unrelated investigation into a connected issue also features Steven Reed at multiple levers of authority, where the brazen crímes of Waconda Nolan are concerned. 

Dubbed the "Mortgage Fraud Madam" by investigators, Nolan, a disgraced former director of a Georgia housing nonprofit, previously convicted for swindling homeowners at risk of foreclosure, is now suspected in a major fraud scheme designed to steal dozens of homes from Montgomery residents. 

According to the United States Attorney’s Office of Investigations, Waconda Nolan, 51, is living in one of the stolen properties, with substantial involvement from Steven Reed, who used his positions as judge and mayor to cover for what are now clearly defined as her crimes.

Waconda Nolan, once the director of Homeownership Programs for the United Community Housing Coalition in Georgia, was previously charged with wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft involving the Georgia Housing Authority. She received 10 years probation and a $40,000 fine. Her latest scheme involves the legal confiscation of around 30 homes from Montgomery residents, raising suspicions of foul play in the death of one of the victims, Ulysess Norman Jr.

Steven Reed's complicity in Nolan's schemes dates back to his tenure as a probate judge. Nolan allegedly forged a marriage license with Ulysess Norman, signed by Reed in 2014, enabling her to fraudulently transfer properties to her name. Reed’s involvement didn’t end there; as mayor, he actively worked to cover up the crimes, stonewalling investigations and speaking against probes into the matter.

Ulysess Norman, a Montgomery native and retired Navy veteran, owned several valuable properties throughout Montgomery and Georgia. He and Nolan were suspected of having an affair, and upon his sudden and suspicious death in 2021, Nolan delayed reporting it until neighbors inquired about his whereabouts. She then used forged documents to claim ownership of Norman's properties.

"The first red flag was when Montgomery Police took Mr. Norman directly to a funeral home instead of the hospital," says Brent Marshall, an attorney for the Norman family. "Additionally, a falsified police report claimed he was taken to the hospital. Officer Hartley, first on the scene, contacted her supervisor because Nolan was acting suspiciously."

Nolan's scheme, allegedly facilitated by Reed, whether knowingly or unknowingly— thought one can't imagine how he didn't know —directly or indirectly, involved forging a marriage license and filing multiple fraudulent quitclaim deeds to transfer Norman's properties to her name or non-existent 'interim owners' before selling them to third parties. Tita Grier and Laryssa Crochon, long-time Montgomery residents with ties to city hall, allegedly notarized the fraudulent deeds, making them appear legitimate.

Presumably, Nolan emailed a Montgomery County Treasurer’s Office employee fake driver’s licenses and other documents that were uploaded into the Treasurer’s Property Tax Administration system. Nolan received payments for some properties via wire transfers into a shell LLC bank account, created by Grier, which were then transferred to Nolan's personal account.

"Bombshell one is: the forged 2019 Norman-Nolan marriage license was signed by Steven L. Reed, at Nolan's urging when Reed was probate judge," Marshall explains. "Reed's tenure as probate is currently being investigated for another foreclosure fraud scheme involving Judge Johnny Hardwick."

Crochon, a niece of Judge Hardwick, and Grier, cousins with Mayor Reed, were crucial to Nolan's schemes. Reed, as mayor, took an unusual personal interest in suppressing the scandal. Former Police Chief Ernest Finley assured a thorough investigation, but after Finley's replacement by Darryl Albert, multiple meetings with the Norman family were canceled, and the investigation stalled.

Marshall detailed how Nolan, using Norman's phone and wallet, quickly drained his accounts and changed direct deposits and contact information to her name. Within a week of Norman's death, Nolan had him secretly cremated by Ross and Clayton's funeral home, further complicating the family’s efforts to contest her claims.

Despite substantial evidence presented to Montgomery Police, including 300 pages of proof, the investigation was never conducted. Reed’s administration ignored over 20 requests from the Norman family for an inquiry. Marshall criticized Chief Albert's response, accusing him of prioritizing personal matters over a critical investigation.

The Norman family faced ongoing harassment and legal hurdles, including being arrested for trespassing on their father's property. Nolan's fraudulent activities continued unchecked until an external investigation in Georgia implicated Tita Grier, who subsequently took her own life in June 2023.

Neither Mayor Reed, Judge Hardwick, nor Nolan have commented on the allegations. The Norman family continues to seek justice amidst a deeply entrenched web of corruption