In 2020, a ring of thieves illegally took ownership of more than 40 homes across South Florida in a multimillion-dollar plan. They were even stealing properties that belonged to the dead, authorities say.
Squatting in foreclosed homes reached a fever pitch in the earlier part of this decade. Many homes were left empty because banks couldn’t keep up with the foreclosure proceedings after many homeowners found themselves owing more on homes than the homes were worth.
In 2013, one case in Boca Raton made worldwide headlines when Andre "Loki Boy" Barbosa, then 23, squatted in style at a 7,200-square-foot home valued at $2.5 million, on the Intra-coastal Waterway. No one saw him break into the opulent home, so it became a civil matter because of an archaic law. That law was stricken from the books during the next legislative season.
May 2018, as part of “Operation Tomb Raider,” authorities arrested six of seven suspects.
The seventh, Compton Maycock-Beckles, 44, was found squatting in a foreclosed Weston home in 2016, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He is facing grand theft and fraud charges.
The case began when sheriff’s Detective Christopher Bradley found Maycock-Beckles living in a foreclosed home that belonged to someone else, officials said.
The original owner said he never gave Maycock-Beckles or his employer, Global Management Consulting Group, permission to live in or sell the house. Group members used fraudulent notary signatures to get the properties, then they lived in the homes, sold them, or rented them, arrest reports said. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/fl-sb-operation-tomb-raider-broward-20180509-story.html
The detective found notaries who had their notary stamps and signatures stolen to authorize deeds and property transfers without their knowledge, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Homeowners feel victimized, but here is what the law says:
“If you physically removed him, you are lucky he did not call the police to have you arrested. When someone moves into your home, even without permission, you are not allowed to kick that person out without a court order. Nor can you change the locks, turn off utilities, or put belongings by the curb. Doing so could leave you liable for injuries or property damage. These same restrictions apply to your guests who overstay their welcome — even if you are also living in the house.
Depending on the situation, you will need to file either an “unlawful detainer” or “ejectment” lawsuit, both similar to an eviction, to get the police’s help in removing the squatter. Think of this before you let a friend from work or a cousin from out of town move in for “just a few days.” https://www.sun-sentinel.com/real-estate/fl-singer-column-20150605-story.html
Members of the ring sometimes sold the same home to more than one person and collected payments from both buyers almost simultaneously, authorities said.
In other cases, they used powers of attorney to get access to dead homeowners’ bank accounts and Social Security checks, then back-dated documents to make it look as if victims had given their permission, detectives said.
Adriana Wulff, 49, of Kendall, was shocked to learn she was one of the victims named in court papers. She had been led to believe that a Weston home she left in 2007, while she was divorcing, was in foreclosure. The Weston home isn’t the one Maycock-Beckles allegedly was found in.
“It’s unbelievable what you are saying,” Wulff, a mother of three, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I didn’t know what happened at the end of the day.”
The arrest report says the home, now valued at $518,000, was in foreclosure, but a fake deed made it look like Global Management Consulting Group owned it and then sold it to another company, Prestige Home Buyers LLC, which was in on the fraudulent activity.
Seven people have been arrested for stealing homes from the living and the dead said Broward Sheriff’s Office
Gary Singer, a real estate lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who writes a column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, says this alleged theft ring appeared far more sophisticated than other defendants from cases from years ago.
Singer said he is representing a relative of one of the dead people whose home in Margate was illegally acquired through a fake quit-claim deed.
There were clues throughout the documents that the transaction was not entirely legitimate, said Singer, who is cooperating with police in the investigation. The deed, for example, showed a sale date two years before it was actually recorded. The notary whose signature is recorded there said she did not sign it.
“Florida is fertile territory for this sort of thing because there are a lot of older people who don’t have a relative who lives close by,” he said. “These people are creating documents that make it look like they rightfully own it when they do not.”
Arrest reports don’t say what happened to each of the victims whose homes were taken, or to those who rented properties from the ring.
The home involved in Singer’s case is currently occupied by a renter who is going to be removed, he said.
“They might be victims as well, but that doesn’t mean they get to live there,” he said.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office asks anyone who thinks they may have been victimized or has information about the case to contact the agency at 954–888–5319. Tips can also be made, anonymously, to Broward Crime Stoppers at 954–493–8477 or online at browardcrimestoppers.org.
Jo Ann Harris is an author, parent, book devotee, writer, copywriter, and film fanatic. She is an autodidact who learns about everything and rows her own boat. She grew up and worked in Atlanta, Georgia, and lived there for sixty years. She writes articles about love, hope, personal life stories, advice, and poems. She is a published author with an article in Woman’s World magazine in October 2017.