Thursday, August 27, 2015

Title Hijacking Suspect Accused Of Using Forged Deed To Steal 94-Year Old Woman's Temporarily Unoccupied Home While Victim Was Laid Up In Nursing Home Rejects Plea Deal, Fires Attorney, Demands Trial

In Orange County, Florida, WFTV-TV Channel 9 reports:
  • An elderly woman is still waiting to get her Orange County home back months after 9 Investigates uncovered how it was stolen from her.

    Vivian Smith, 94, said someone moved into her home on Yucatan Drive and changed the deed.

    Suspect Vannesa Russell was supposed to take a plea deal on Thursday, but Channel 9's Shannon Butler was there when Russell suddenly changed her mind and fired her attorney.

    Russell was supposed to take a plea deal that would have given her a year in jail and then probation. She declined, saying she would rather go to trial.

    "And you're not interested in that?" asked the judge. "Not at all, your honor," said Russell.

    "OK, do you believe you own the property?" asked the judge. "I really don't want to go into the matter right now," said Russell.

    Russell was accused of taking Smith's house while she sat in a nursing home. Russell lived there for months until a Channel 9 investigation resulted in authorities removing her from the home and arresting her.

    Documents obtained by Channel 9 show a forged deed to the home, a stolen notary stamp and only cash transactions made on the property for the taxes.

    Smith told Channel 9 she never gave anyone her house, and wanted it back.

    After almost a year, Smith still doesn't own her own home legally. Russell has not signed over the paperwork and the case could be headed to civil court.

    Russell faces 30 years in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to start Aug. 31. The public defender is now on stand-by. The civil case is still months away from being resolved.(1)
Source: Woman accused of stealing elderly woman's home backs out of plea deal.

(1) Presumably, the parallel civil case was initiated to void the allegedly forged deed, and to quiet title (to formally reflect the restoration of ownership in the public records) to the home in the victim's name.

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