Property Grab - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Property Grab

Posted: Updated:

WSVN -- Fitzroy Ellis: "And what ever price I wanted for the property was legal sir."

Sixty-five-year-old Fitzroy Ellis was confident and combative during his trial on grand theft charges. He paid $13.70 to file a court document involving this $200,000 house in Jacaranda Lakes, which was in foreclosure. Ellis claims the document made the property his.

Don Tenbrook: "Did you find it strange or unusual that you'd be able to get ownership of a house or property for paying $13.70?"

Fitzroy Ellis: "No sir."

Ellis claimed an old law designed for abandoned properties justified his actions. It's called adverse possession, and requires upkeep and taxes paid for seven years before ownership is changed. Ellis didn't wait.

Fitzroy Ellis: "There was never a statute on the books in Florida for arrest under adverse possession sir."

Nerissa Spannos: "He told me he was the owner."

Nerissa Spannos was the realtor representing the bank that foreclosed on the house. She testified Ellis changed the locks on the property and when she changed them back he wanted her arrested.

Nerissa Spannos: "He kept saying 'I'm sorry my dear, you've just lost your money. This is my house.'"

Another person involved in the sale of the house testified that Ellis offered to drop his claim for $30,000.

Don Tenbrook: "Did you pay him the $30,000?

Person: "No we did not."

When he took the stand in his own defense, Ellis claimed a second law. A federal law also gave him a right to the property.

Don Tenbrook: "Isn't it a fact sir that there's nothing in this act that provides you or your companies the right to take property without compensation to the owners?"

Fitzroy Ellis: "You are absolutely wrong sir."

But Ellis's attorney told the jury he had relied on the state adverse possession law.

Brian Greenwald: "Florida statute section 95.18 is a law. So by definition Mr. Fitzroy Ellis was not acting unlawfully if he was acting pursuant to this law."

The state argued otherwise.

Don Tenbrook: "He was hijacking this house. He was looking for a ransom. It's a scam it's pure and simple."

Judge Jeffrey Levenson: "OK Mr. Ellis please stand."

It took the jury less than an hour to reach a verdict.

Court Clerk: "The defendant is guilty of theft. The value of the property being $100,000 or more."

The decision is significant in that it sends a message to others who have tried or might try to use the adverse possession law to grab property.

Carmel Cafiero: "It doesn't fit today's foreclosure problems?"

Don Tenbrook: "Not at all."

Meanwhile, Ellis is behind bars until his sentencing next month. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison in this case, and has five more property grab cases pending.

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUEBroward: 954-921-CLUE E-mail: clue@wsvn.com

 

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Study reveals unequal distribution of teachers in Miami-Dade County

    Study reveals unequal distribution of teachers in Miami-Dade County

    Thursday, August 21 2014 7:31 AM EDT2014-08-21 11:31:27 GMT
    NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE -- Miami-Dade County Schools are confronted with a tough lesson after a new study revealed the district isn't sending enough quality teachers to the schools that need them the most.
    NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE -- Miami-Dade County Schools are confronted with a tough lesson after a new study revealed the district isn't sending enough quality teachers to the schools that need them the most.

  • Arrest made in case of teen who went missing

    Arrest made in case of teen who went missing

    Thursday, August 21 2014 7:16 AM EDT2014-08-21 11:16:43 GMT
    19-year-old James Pescovitz Gider19-year-old James Pescovitz Gider
    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- An arrest was made in the case of a South Florida teen who went missing but was found, Wednesday afternoon.
    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- An arrest was made in the case of a South Florida teen who went missing but was found, Wednesday afternoon.
  • Miami family prays son will be released by ISIS

    Miami family prays son will be released by ISIS

    Thursday, August 21 2014 7:07 AM EDT2014-08-21 11:07:18 GMT
    PINECREST, Fla. -- A South Florida family is praying that their son, who is allegedly being held by ISIS militants, will be safely released and returned home.
    PINECREST, Fla. -- A South Florida family is praying that their son, who is allegedly being held by ISIS militants, will be safely released and returned home.
Powered by WorldNow

WSVN-TV
Sunbeam Television Corp
1401 79th Street Causeway
Miami, FL 33141

Switchboard: (305) 751-6692
Newsroom: (305) 795-2777

Can't find something?
Connect with us here:
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WSVN. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.