Hillsborough County Deputies arrested a woman they say stole a $300,000 home in a gated community in Valrico.
Carolyn Knight-Williams, 66, successfully filed a warranty deed on the property while posing as a trustee on behalf of U.S. Bank N.A. She then moved into the home early last year. During that time it was pending to be sold. The buyers were forced to walk away.
"Literally stole a $300,000 home," State Attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Andrew Warren, said.
According to arrest documents, she worked with another woman, Brenda Robinson, 54, to complete and file the paperwork. Robinson has yet to be arrested.
Warren says the two women are part of an anti-government group called Sovereign Citizens.
"Sovereign Citizens is a loose affiliation of people who reject the rule of law and legitimacy of government to lie, cheat and steal from the rest of us," Warren explained.
Many in the movement change their names, refuse to pay taxes and fines, refuse to carry a driver's license or put license plates on their vehicles. The Southern Poverty Law Center says they can be violent but are also involved in sophisticated fraud schemes.
"When the government talks about these tactics, they call it paper terrorism," Heidi Beirich, SPLC, said.
Beirich says some of the group's members will file erroneous liens and deeds to disrupt the lives of public servants and others. She says, as of the last estimate, there were about 300,000 members. While the home in Valrico was bank owned, Beirich says that's not always the case.
"There have literally been cases when people came home from work, there's a family of Sovereign Citizens living in their home, the doors are boarded up and they're not being allowed in," she said.
The deed at the Valrico home has since been corrected. A family purchased and moved into the house in July.
The Hillsborough County Clerk's Office offers free property fraud monitoring. The program notifies you whenever a document is recorded using your name or the name of your business. You can sign up by going to https://www.propertyfraudalert.com/ .