Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Property Grab
A South Florida man is facing criminal charges. Tonight in connection with what you could call a property grab, he's filing court documents to take possession of homes without paying for them. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the story.
WSVN -- This Plantation house was in foreclosure, and was just days away from being sold, but when the buyer came by, she got a big surprise. Someone else was living there.
Pauline Hite: "I went to open the lock box and a lady opened the door and I asked her 'Well, who are you,' and she said 'I live here. I said 'That's impossible,' I said 'That's my house.'"
A few minutes later, Pauline says this man, Fitzroy Ellis showed up claiming the house belongs to him, not the bank she was buying it from.
Pauline Hite: "He made some threats about the house and told me that the bank had fleeced me, and that this was his home."
It turns out, Ellis is claiming he owns a lot homes throughout Broward, but he's not buying any of them. Instead, he is submitting court documents to take them over.
Based on a law for abandoned properties. That law allows people to take over properties that have been abandoned for seven years and the person applying for ownership must prove they have paid for upkeep and taxes on the property, but the properties Ellis is allegedly filing on are not abandoned, they're just for sale.
Denise Arnau: "Basically he went to my property and changed the locks."
Denise Arnau is the realtor for this home in Lauderhill. She says Ellis filed on this house and ruined a pending sale because now there is an issue with ownership, and that means it will have to go to court to be cleared up.
Denise Arnau: "We don't know how long this is gonna take. The title company can't give us an answer. A real estate attorney friend of mine can't give me an answer, and everybody is saying it has to be litigated."
This is listed as the office of Fitzroy Ellis' Company, Helping Hands Properties.
Dwaine Ellis: "Yeah baby, where you from?"
Carmel Cafiero: "Carmel Cafiero, Channel 7, we're doing a story on the properties from Helping Hands and I'd like to talk with Mr. Ellis about how he's acquiring them."
Dwaine Ellis: "OK, please get off the property."
Carmel Cafiero: "OK are you Mr. Ellis, will you be able to help me?"
Not long after this exchange, Fitzroy Ellis was arrested on a first degree grand theft charge in connection with his attempt to take another property using the same abandoned property law.
According to the arrest report, Ellis changed the locks here twice without the permission of the rightful owner. The Broward state attorney's office says cases involving Ellis and others are being investigated throughout the county.
Carmel Cafiero: "So as the investigations continue, the fate of this property and who knows how many others remains in legal limbo."
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