3 arrests made after woman’s Coconut Grove property sold without her knowledge
MIAMI – Authorities have confirmed that three people have been arrested after illegally selling a plot of land owned by an elderly woman, which has been owned by her family for more than a century.
Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle identified the suspects during a Friday news conference as Otis Lathen Powell, Shantel Vennissa Chang and Jason Webley Sr.
She said they were arrested in Broward County and are charged with money laundering, theft from a person 65 or older, grand theft, organized scheme to defraud, conspiracy to commit organized scheme to defraud and fraudulent use of personal identification information.
“I am deeply hurt that someone would do this to me,” Shirley Gibson told Local 10 News last month. “It represents my heritage. My grandfather purchased this in the early 1900s.”
The 86-year-old is a descendent of early Bahamian settlers turned pioneers of Coconut Grove. A family that has kept several properties in its name for more than a century, including the 5,000-square-foot lot that was handed down to Gibson.
“I would like to have a legacy to leave to my niece and my nephew and my family,” Gibson said.
When she showed up to pay the annual tax bill last month, she was told it had already been paid by a new owner.
She was shown a deed of the sale, which was prepared by an Aventura title company and notarized by a licensed notary two months prior.
“He says Ms. Gibson was physically present, she showed her driver’s license and signed this warranty deed, which we know she did not,” Gibson’s attorney, David Winker, told Local 10 News.
Records show the $230,000 purchase, on paper, was by Ollie Development LLC, a company whose address comes back to a residential neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.
To make matters worse, a second property in West Grove that is owned by Gibson was also listed for sale without her knowledge.
Fernandez Rundle said the South Florida title company and the buyer were also victims in the scheme and the title company suffered a loss of $230,000.
As for Gibson, she told reporters Friday that she was grateful for the support from community leaders and the media, and that she is happy this happened to her because it brought elderly exploitation to the front of the line for others in the community to be aware of.
“Be aware. Be cognizant of what’s going on because it could happen to you,” she said.
As for how others can prevent this from happening, homes without a mortgage are more susceptible because it provides less red tape for criminals.
Experts suggest monitoring the property appraiser’s website every three months or so to check for anything suspicious, and setting up a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. They are trained to alert people about matters like these.
How We Can Help
If you, a friend or a family member find themselves in a situation such as this, please call the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A. at 305 670-3330 right away. Scott A. Ferris, Esq. is a licensed attorney who has been practicing law for 34 years. He is available whenever you need him to defend your rights. Please learn about our firm at www.FerrisLawFirm.com.
Republished by the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A.