Wednesday, March 18, 2015

South Florida Man Pinched On Grand Theft, Organized Fraud Charges For Allegedly Using Forgeries, Fraudulent Documents To Hijack Title To Ten Homes Worth $2.5 Million; Suspect Bagged While Already In State Prison Serving 5-Year Stint For Earlier Conviction On Three Separate But Similar Heist Attempts

In Dade County, Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports:
  • A two-time convicted car thief from South Florida got into the real estate business and began filing phony records with county officials then began stealing houses, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    Louis Marvin Lewis, 47, formerly of Hollywood, used that scam to fraudulently obtain titles to 10 houses worth $2.5 million, the agency reported.

    One was a two-story, four-bedroom house near Bithlo that was in foreclosure and worth $207,000, FDLE said.

    Lewis managed to find buyers and sell four of the houses, including the one in Orange County, FDLE reported, and was working to sell the other six.

    Lewis was arrested Thursday at a state prison — Dade Correctional Institution in Florida City — where he is serving a five-year sentence for a conviction in Broward County last summer for three separate but similar crimes: filing false documents in an attempt to get title to houses.

    In this new case, he'll be prosecuted in St. Lucie County on charges of grand theft and organized fraud by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.

    Five of the houses he's accused of stealing were in that county; three were in Broward and one each in Orange and Martin counties.

    His attorney, Sean P. Sheppard, did not return a phone call.

    Lewis used forgeries and false documents to transfer title to companies he created, FDLE said.

    He forged sellers' signatures, as well as that of at least one North Carolina notary public.

    One of his companies, Think Tank Innovations Inc., acquired title to the house near Bithlo in 2012 and sold it to Meridian Trust LLC the following year for $70,000, a Meridian partner told FDLE. It has since been sold twice, now to a couple, according to property records. The house was in foreclosure when Lewis stole it, according to the FDLE. It had been owned by a brother and sister who stopped making payments to Wells Fargo Bank.

    Lewis forged the signatures of both on separate warranty deeds, FDLE reported.

    Neither brother nor sister realized what had happened and got no proceeds from the sale, FDLE reported.

    The 10-house case began when employees at the St. Lucie County Property Appraiser's Office spotted suspicious details on deeds that Lewis filed there, FDLE reported.

    Previously, he's served prison time for a series of crimes in Miami-Dade: stealing two vehicles, robbery, aggravated battery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

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