MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- She's a convicted criminal who has spent time in a California prison for scamming people out of their hard-earned money, and now she's in Milwaukee. Her local victims contacted FOX6 in an effort to get their money back.
They say this "church-going woman" has been targeting people at God's People Temple of Praise located at 2201 N. 35th Street. Pat Maben, a Milwaukee homeowner, says she had faith her prayers had been answered.
"She comes in the name of Jesus," Maben says.
Maben heard about the woman from friends. Her friends had met the woman at church.
"They was like, 'Pat, if you need any house or anything refinanced, Frances can help you,'" Maben says.
Maben had been looking for financial help to pay off a balloon mortgage.
They said she was a God-fearing woman who had even helped her own church get out of debt.
Maben was hoping the woman could save her, too. Save her credit -- and save her home.
"She tells you she can make it right or she can make it happen for you. She made it happen for so many people," Maben said.
Maben, convinced the woman was a Godsend, decided to clue in her cousin, Tim Turner. Turner says he wanted to invest in a bar to add to the other rental properties he owns.
"Stuff that she was giving me, I thought sounded okay," Turner said.
Maben paid the woman $2,500 to get the ball rolling on her loan. Turner paid the woman more than $1,000 for loan paperwork and an appraisal.
"I should have done my research before, you know," Turner says.
They were both really excited about what their financial futures might hold. But days turned into weeks, and the mysterious woman never followed through.
As it turns out, one of the checks Turner wrote was cashed by the woman's husband, Willie McCray. The other check, supposedly written out to an appraisal company, was cashed by the woman's landlord. Turner had paid her rent.
Turner and Maben knew the woman as Frances Owens -- but she has many other names: Carletta McCray, Carla Owens, CeCe Owens, and sometimes Sabrina.
Whatever you call her, she's a criminal who spent four years in California State Prison on charges of grand theft and money laundering.
A quick Google search of the name Carletta McCray and you'll see for yourself how many headlines she's made. In one case, she was accused of cheating an elderly woman out of her home and savings. In another, she took money from investors who thought they were buying land in California.
In some cases she found her victims at church.
But when FOX6 News caught up with McCray, she denied all of it.
"I haven't stolen any money from anybody," she said. "I don't have nothing to say."
"I think that she preys on a lot of church people that really don't know her. She goes in the name of Jesus and all of it is a lie," Maben said.
More than two years ago, Milwaukee resident Naco Dye called the FOX6 Investigators saying she, too, had been scammed by a woman she knew as Carla Owens.
"She told me she could help me with my credit and get me into a nice place," Dye said.
Dye, knowing she probably couldn't get approved for a loan, worked out a deal with Owens.
"She just basically told me she could help me out," Dye said.
Dye would rent to own a home and pay rent for that home to Owens.
But two weeks after Dye moved in there was a knock at the door from a realtor.
"And he was like, 'You guys aren't supposed to be in here,'" Dye said.
The house, as it turned out, belonged to a man who had died -- and the mysterious Carla Owens had no rights to it.
"When they arrested her and they asked her her name and she lied I was like, 'Who are you?' you know?" Dye said.
"She took my money and now she doesn't call me. She never tried to get back in touch," Maben said.
The same is true for Turner.
"I am regretful that I didn't research her more, but I took church people's word because they go to church with her every Sunday," Maben says.
That's the kind of blind faith that can get you in real trouble -- especially since the devil really is in the details when it comes to getting financing.
"I would highly suggest that people do not do business with people who are not licensed," says Michael Kellman, Senior Vice President of Consumer Lending at North Shore Bank.
He says if someone offers you what seems like a miracle, beware.
"If you are asked for any money, deposit, application deposit, down payment, or any type of fee at all, that's a huge red flag and you should turn and walk away," Kellman said.
You can easily search online here to see if someone has a mortgage broker license. In addition, state law requires that a broker give you something called a disclosure packet. It's about 30 pages of documents explaining what your rights are. If you don't get one, the person you're working with is already breaking the law.
As for McCray, it doesn't appear that she has ever been a licensed mortgage broker. She was arrested in the rent-to-own scheme, but has never been charged. She is currently being sued by a homeowner in California for lies she allegedly told a man about his house. He claims he's out $400,000 because of his dealings with McCray.
She is still under investigation locally, but has not yet been formally accused of any wrongdoing in Wisconsin.