Payton & Associates, LLC
Commercial Litigation Attorneys
Miami, Florida

Fraudsters used shell companies, stole South Florida real estate

When it comes to fraud, some perpetrators are simply bolder than others. In South Florida, where fraud schemes on a grand scale are somewhat commonplace, it can take quite a bit to turn people's heads. However, a recent scheme uncovered in Broward County is certainly among the most brazen in the recent history of South Florida fraud cases.

A group of seven fraudsters that the Broward County Sheriff's Office dubbed the "tomb raiders" have been arrested and amassed more than 600 felony charges. Included among the charges are fraud, grand theft and identity theft. Using forged quitclaim deeds, the brazen fraud scheme involved transferring homes that were in foreclosure, belonged to individuals who are disabled or - hence the "tomb raiders" moniker - were among the estates of dead people into the ownership of a shell corporation.

Using a handful of fake companies, the fraud ring transferred and sold at least 44 homes, 18 of which belonged to deceased individuals. In some cases, they would sell the same home more than once and pocket multiple payments. Investigators believe that there are more victims out there who have not yet been discovered. By the time they were caught, members of the ring had netted at least $12 million.

In the case of deceased victims, the perpetrators' fraud scheme did not end with stolen real estate. In some instances, they would go even farther and take over the victims' bank accounts and pocket funds from Social Security benefits. Some of the defendants could face hundreds of years of prison time if convicted on all charges. No defendant will face less than 10 years in prison if convicted. In spite of the use of wires and the stolen Social Security benefits, no federal charges have yet been filed.

Source: CBS Miami, "'Tomb Raiders' Fraud Ring Busted In Broward," accessed May 8, 2018

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