MATTHEWS, N.C. - Two homes listed as being owned by the "Moorish Holy Temple" might have been granted religious exemptions by error, according to Meckleng County tax officials.
A search of properties with "Moorish" in the title obtained by Channel 9 found four properties for which the owners have applied for religious exemptions. Two of the four are believed to have been granded exemptions in error. The County Assessor’s Office is recommending a denial of future exemptions for all four.
Eyewitness News examined records for the two properties that received tax exemptions. According to the County Assessor's Office search, the applications were made by Dianne Carter and involved homes in Matthews and Charlotte.
North Carolina law gives counties the ability to grant tax exemptions to properties for special uses, including for religious reasons.
Public records show that in 2009, the Matthews home, off Gifford Drive, was owned by Carter but was transferred to the "Moorish Holy Temple of Science/Moorish Science Temple South Carolina Republic Temple No. 3A." A woman named Dori Me'Ira El-Bey, listed as "grand sheikess," signed off on the deed.
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County officials told Eyewitness News that the exemption was awarded in 2011.
"Staff went out visited the property, knocked on the door, spoke to someone," Mecklenburg County Tax Assessor Ken Joyner said. Joyner was not assessor at the time but is familiar with the property.
Joyner said the person staying there said Bible study classes were taking place at the property.
"It appeared at that time that it was meeting the exemption," Joyner said.
Joyner said a compliance review done by his office in 2013 turned up red flags.
"We even checked the secretary of state's website and (the applicant) wasn't even listed as a nonprofit through the secretary of state, which is something you would expect to see," Joyner said.
The exemption was denied. Joyner said his office is now working with legal counsel to determine if it can collect taxes for the previous years.
"It does appear from information that we've been given, that it looks like those prior years should not have been exempted," Joyner said.
Neighbors, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Eyewitness News that Carter still lives at the home. Channel 9 was unsuccessful in attempts to contact Carter.
The matter of whether to approve future exemptions for the property, along with three others, will go before the county's Board of Equalization and Review on Dec. 1.
CARTER TIED TO HOST OF OTHER LEGAL DOCUMENTS
A search of court and police records for the name Dianne Carter turns up numerous legal filings.
According to a 2014 arrest record, Dianne Carter also goes by the name "Dori El-Bey." El-Bey is a name commonly associated with Moorish followers. The arrest, made by Matthews police, was for fleeing to elude arrest.
Federal court records filed in Charlotte show that Carter filed a 2014 lawsuit against several Mecklenburg County judges, District Attorney Andrew Murray and Sheriff Irwin Carmichael.
The lawsuit, which appears to be written by Carter, alleged that her rights were violated during an arrest and other encounters with law enforcement.
Along with other claims, the lawsuit contends that she was "handcuffed and arrested" on "temple property."
A federal judge dismissed the claim and in a ruling noted "numerous criminal charges against plaintiff," including "performing notarial acts when not commissioned, as well as traffic infractions for driving without insurance, driving without registration, using a fictional registration car or license tag and fleeing to elude arrest."
MOORISH FOLLOWERS TIED TO SQUATTING, TAX FRAUD CASES
A Channel 9 investigation earlier this month uncovered multiple criminal cases involving people with ties to Moorish religious institutions.
Ninti El-Bey, who makes numerous Moorish references in lawsuits that she has filed, was arrested multiple times for squatting in a lavish Piper Glen home.
A high-profile tax fraud case involving a Moorish follower recently passed through Charlotte's federal courthouse.
Tebnu El-Bey, also known as Daniel Heggins, pleaded guilty in early November in his tax fraud case. Prosecutors charged him and Joan Clark with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and 16 counts of filing false, fictitious or fraudulent claims.
RELIGION LEADERS DENY ASSOCIATION WITH THOSE WHO BREAK LAW
Brother D.A. Siggers-Bey, an assistant grand mufti with the Moorish Science Temple of America, told Eyewitness News that the religion does not recognize individuals who choose to break the law.
He said many who claim to be Moorish "have never seen the inside of one of our temples."
He said breaking the law is in direct violation of Moorish teachings. Siggers-Bey said followers are specifically taught to abide by government law.
MOORISH SCIENCE TEMPLE OF AMERICA
Law enforcement experts said a large number of the cases involving sovereign citizens are tied to the Moorish Science Temple of America.
The religion, founded in 1913 by a Durham native, has roots in Islam. It has large populations in North Carolina and New Jersey.
The name El-Bey is commonly adopted by followers of the religion. Experts said the individuals involved in illegal schemes have twisted the religion's teachings.
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