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Quit claim deed fraud on the rise in Tampa Bay

Posted at 6:02 PM, Apr 28, 2016

Someone could swoop in and steal the home you have worked so hard to buy.

A local family says it has happened to them.

Eddie Evans carved his family's name in his door step as a child. 

As he stood in front of the house, looking at the name, he said he is worried the home will soon be lost to a stranger.

“It's just real hard to think that I grew up in the house for so long, and it's about to go,” he said.

His father Edward Evans lived there three decades before he got dementia and went to a nursing home.  

“It probably felt like nobody cared about it anymore. Nobody lived here, because of the condition it's in,” said Eddie Evans.

Evans says someone forged his father's signature on something called a quit claim deed.

That type of deed is supposed to make it easy for family members to transfer property, but the Evans family never met James Davis, the person whose name is on the new deed.

The I-Team tried to find Davis at the North Brooks Street address listed on the quit claim deed, but we discovered that the address on the paperwork doesn’t even exist.

Davis' name was on two other recent quit claim deeds, including a bank-owned property a block from Evans' home and a Seminole Heights house a mile away, whose owner moved out for several months to take care of her sick mother. 

All the fraudulent quit claim deeds were notarized by the same person.

We tracked down that individual and found out that he is the manager of an Amscot branch on East Busch Blvd.

Osman Yildirim's stamp and signature appear on all of those deeds.

“I won't be able to give you any information,” Yildirim said when we asked him about the fraudulent deeds.

Amscot's lawyer says someone forged Yildirim's signature.

The signature on the questionable deeds very closely resembles his actual signature found on his mortgage and other documents recorded with the county.

His notary license is suspended while the state investigates.

“This looks like any other quit claim deed,” said Will Shepherd, who is General Counsel for the Hillsborough County Appraiser’s Office.

Shepherd says notaries are the last line of defense against quit claim deed fraud.

“It takes two minutes to create a false deed and 30 seconds to file it with the Clerk of the Court,” said Shepherd. “But it may take six, nine months, a year to unwind this.”

The Seminole Heights homeowner had to hire a lawyer.

She called police in January, when she found convicted felon Early Coney, Jr. Inside her home, refusing to leave.

Coney claimed James Davis hired him to do renovations, but police can't verify Davis even exists.

Records show Coney was tied to another recent quit claim deed fraud case in Tampa, but was not charged.

Coney is currently under house arrest for violating probation on an auto theft and other convictions.

When we asked him about the deeds we found that were tied to him, Coney denied that he was the grantee in any of them and the signature attached to the deeds was his.

Coney served time for identity theft, burglary, vehicle thefts and assault.

He paid nothing for the property where he is currently serving house arrest, nor 14 other houses Coney, his girlfriend and their companies obtained from quit claim deeds.

They have since rented out or sold some of the homes.  

“We're grateful that you all have brought these forward to us so we will not wind up posting these deeds and not change the titles in our records,” said Shepherd.

“I didn't even know that this type of thing was possible, really,” said Eddie Evans.

He vows to fight to get his father’s home back for his family.

Experts say property owners should regularly check their deeds to make sure they haven’t been transferred without their knowledge.

You can plug in your name or address on you county’s property appraiser’s website, to see if anything appears suspicious.

Hillsborough County:

http://gis.hcpafl.org/propertysearch/#/nav/Basic%20Search

Pinellas County:

http://www.pcpao.org/

Pasco County:

http://appraiser.pascogov.com/

Polk County:

http://www.polkpa.org/camadisplay.aspx

Manatee County:

http://www.manateepao.com/ManateeFL/Search/Disclaimer.aspx?FromUrl=../search/commonsearch.aspx?mode=owner

Sarasota County:

http://www.sc-pa.com/search/

 

If you find any problems on their listings, contact the appraiser’s office immediately.

You will then need to also search for fraudulent deeds in “Official Records” through your local clerk of courts office.

If you have information about quit claim deed fraud or another story you think the I-Team should investigate, contact us at adam@abcactionnews.com