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Who Plotted to Sell Graceland? An Identity Thief Raises His Hand.

Who Plotted to Sell Graceland? An Identity Thief Raises His Hand.

The writer said he was an identity thief — a ring leader on the dark web, with a network of “worms” placed throughout the United States.

In an email to The New York Times, he said his ring preyed on the dead, the unsuspecting and the elderly, especially those from Florida and California, using birth certificates and other documents to discover personal information that aided in their schemes.

“We figure out how to steal,” he said. “That’s what we do.”

Recently, the writer suggested, the group had turned its attention to a major target: the estate of Lisa Marie Presley, which last week faced a threat that Graceland was about to be foreclosed on and sold by a mysterious company, Naussany Investments & Private Lending LLC.

Media outlets often receive unsolicited emails from people who make outlandish claims. But this email arrived Friday in response to one sent by The Times to an email address that Naussany listed in a legal filing sent to a Tennessee court reviewing the foreclosure case.

In its email, The Times referred to the company’s claim that Ms. Presley had borrowed $3.8 million from it, using Graceland as collateral. In the responses, which came from the email address The Times had written to, the writer described the foreclosure effort not as a legitimate attempt to collect on a debt, but as a scam.

“I had fun figuring this one out and it didn’t succeed very well,” the email writer said. He said he was based in Nigeria and his email was written in Luganda, a Bantu language spoken in Uganda. But the filing with the email address was faxed from a toll-free number designed to serve North America; it was included in documents sent to the Chancery Court in Shelby County, Tenn., where the foreclosure case is still pending.

Since the news broke last week that a company was trying to sell Graceland — Elvis Presley’s former home and a beloved tourist attraction in Memphis — the Naussany company has been a persistent puzzle. It is difficult to find any public records that prove that the company exists. Phone numbers listed in court documents for the company are not in service. Addresses listed by the company are those of post offices.

In September, eight months after Ms. Presley’s death, Naussany Investments did file papers in probate court in California posting what it said was Ms. Presley’s debt from 2018. It included a deed of trust, with a signature represented as Ms. Presley’s, that put forward Graceland as collateral.

But Clint Anderson, the deputy administrator of the Shelby County Register of Deeds, said his office does not have on file a deed of trust or any other documents from Naussany Investments “to legitimize this company foreclosing on any other property in Shelby County.”

In its September filing, Naussany Investments said it would agree to settle what it described as the debt for a discounted $2.85 million, which would be paid by the Presley family trust. But the trust, now led by Lisa Marie Presley’s daughter, the actress Riley Keough, did not view the debt as legitimate.

Naussany Investments then took out an ad in The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, giving notice that it planned to auction Graceland in a foreclosure sale last week.

That led Ms. Keough to court last week, where she fought the foreclosure, declaring in a legal filing that the loan was a fiction, the company “a false entity” and the effort to sell Graceland a fraud. The signatures of Ms. Presley and of a notary public on some of the documents had been forged, lawyers for Ms. Keough said.

At a hearing on Wednesday, the judge blocked any immediate foreclosure on Graceland, saying that he needed to review more evidence.

No one representing the Naussany company attended the hearing. But shortly before it began, the court received a filing from a person identifying himself as a representative of the company, Gregory E. Naussany. The filing disputed Ms. Keough’s allegations, asked for time to present a defense and included an email address, [email protected], for further contact.

By the end of the day, though, Naussany Investments appeared to have given up. The Commercial Appeal and The Associated Press reported receiving emails from the company withdrawing its claims. Elvis Presley Enterprises, which operates Graceland as a tourist attraction, told The New York Times that a lawyer for the family’s trust had also received an email from a person purporting to be Gregory Naussany who said Naussany Investments did not intend to move forward with a sale.

Court records, however, do not yet list any motion by Naussany Investments to drop its claim.

A lawyer for Ms. Keough declined to comment on Tuesday.

In a bizarre case with so many unanswered questions, it is difficult to determine how much weight to place on the recent communications to The Times from the email address associated with Naussany Investments. While the writer says he is based in Nigeria, it is difficult to pinpoint his location.

The Bantu language used in the two emails to The Times is clunky in spots, according to a translator who reviewed the emails, while the English of the court documents the company has filed has been fluent.

NBC News is among several media outlets that have received other emails from people who suggested they have ties to the company, but it does not appear that those emails contained any acknowledgment of misconduct.

Naussany Investments has listed several email addresses in its court filings. Both emails received by The Times in recent days came from the address associated with Gregory Naussany that was listed in the company’s court filing. In each, the writer advanced the view that he was part of a sophisticated identity fraud operation that had particularly targeted Americans, who were described as gullible.

When The Times sought further clarification on specific issues, the writer replied, “You don’t have to understand.” The writer did not suggest any reasoning for being so forthcoming in the emails beyond taking credit for what he described as the ring’s success in other cases.

“I am the one who creates trouble,” the writer said to open his first email on Friday.

On Thursday, the attorney general of Tennessee, Jonathan Skrmetti, said his office would review Naussany Investments and investigate its attempt to foreclose on what he said was the state’s most “beloved” home. A spokeswoman for the office said Tuesday that officials were aware of the correspondence sent to The Times and that it would “continue looking into the matter.”

On Friday, even before the recent emails from the company had been sent, Darrell Castle, a Memphis lawyer who has worked frequently on foreclosures for more than 40 years, called the whole situation “extremely unusual to the point of being unbelievable.”

Mark A. Sunderman, a real estate professor at the University of Memphis, was struck by the audacity of such an effort, but also noted how vulnerable the system can be.

“They picked the wrong piece of property,” he said. “If this had not been such a high-profile piece of property, they might have gotten away with it.”

In this case, the person who took credit for the scheme in emails conceded in a mixture of Luganda and English that he had been outmaneuvered.

“Yo client dont have nothing to worries,” the person wrote, “win fir her.”

Then the writer added: “She beat me at my own game.”

Musinguzi Blanshe contributed reporting from Kampala, Uganda, Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi, Kenya, Ruth Maclean from Dakar, Senegal, Jessica Jaglois from Memphis and Aaron Krolik from New York. Kitty Bennett and Kirsten Noyes contributed research.


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