Social graph analysis reveals criminal conspiracy of slumlords

OrgNet, a data-mining consultancy, describes how it mined the social graph of the interlocking, every changing owners of several slum-buildings to show that they were all in a criminal conspiracy to avoid having to do the legally required maintenance necessary to keeping their buildings habitable and safe.

Figure 6 shows the complete conspiracy. It was now obvious that properties exchanged hands not as independent and valid real estate investments but as a conspiracy to avoid fixing the building violations. The green links represent borrowed money flowing into the buildings through new mortgages. As time went on, and the buildings appreciated in value during a real estate boom -- loans from the mortgage company allowed the owners to "strip mine" the equity from the buildings. This is a common slumlord modus operandi -- they suck money out of a building rather than put money back in for maintenance.

...The city attorney combined the network analysis, along with the city's own extensive investigation and was able to get a conviction of key family members. Later, all of one building's tenants filed a civil suit using much of the same evidence and won a sufficient award to allow all of them to move out into decent housing. Several tenants used a part of their award to start businesses.

Uncloaking a Slumlord Conspiracy with Social Network Analysis (via Kottke)


  1. So in essence, each red connection is a family connection (either blood or marriage). The shit really hits the fan at the end where there is a person connected both to the mortgage company that loaned money to the various LLCs, and to various restaurants in the city.

    Also, didn’t someone do something similar with a bunch or large multinationals and their board members? I think the result was that a few people was found to share various boards and so could in essence direct the world economy among them. That is, not everyone was in a single central board together. But each of them was member of a board with at least one other member of said group. So if they wanted, they could relay a message, off the record, between any two members of the group.

    1. I think it’s possible for rich and powerful people to coordinate off the record in ways other than sharing seats on a board of directors.

  2. So let me get this straight. These people were probably leading a good life, while taking rent from these tenants while the renter’s kids got lead exposure. Meanwhile they enriched themselves by reselling the building to themselves at ever greater value. 

    hm. people suck.

    1. And isolating themselves from the loan repercussions by way of a LLC. As such they could skim the profits into their personal accounts, but leave the loans on the company books. Then when the loan terms are becoming troublesome they flip it to another LLC with different extended family members, and the whole things keep on going.

  3. So, is this actually a criminal conspiracy, or is this now the minimum level of cost-cutting diligence that all property management companies will be held to by their investors?

  4. “What you and I are saying is much less important than the fact that you and I are talking. Against traffic analysis, encryption is irrelevant.” – Bruce Schneier

  5. There’s big money to be made in gouging poor, desperate people.  Think BlueHippo, payday loans, crack cocaine and, most profitable of all, religious hucksterism, all things to warm the heart of Christian capitalists everywhere.

  6. Small scale Wall Street.  Too bad for them they aren’t too big to fail, and/or have members of their group in key positions (like the Federal Reserve or the Treasury).

  7. Glad you all enjoyed this project!

    See original post for link back to SAJE — the folks who did all of the investigative work.  

    We also looked into the “mortgage meltdown” and connected the dots from Main Street to Wall Street…

    Our first “15 minutes of fame” in mapping the “bad guys” came when we connected the dots between the 19 “9-11” hijackers using public data…


    1. The libertarian view is that “milking” buildings is best handled by more competition and that competition is suppressed by regulation.

      In related news, we also attribute the wretched living conditions of the urban poor in early 19th-century England to government actions.

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