South Florida detectives say two attorneys were part of a sophisticated fraud scheme. They’re accused of stealing checks in foreclosure cases from people both alive and dead. Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s 7 Investigates.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office dubbed it “Operation Claim Game” and say the four players include two South Florida attorneys: Rashida Overby and Ria Sankar-Balram.
Carey Codd, Broward Sheriff’s Office: “These attorneys are officers of the court, and they are accused of filing false pleadings with the court, in essence lying to judges in Broward County, trying to get money that did not belong to them.”
Detectives say more than $740,000 was stolen in a sophisticated scheme to defraud victims both alive and dead.
Carey Codd: “It appears they were targeting deceased individuals.”
The case centers around foreclosure surplus checks, money left over after mortgage and other obligations in foreclosure cases are paid off.
But instead of the money going back to elderly property owners — or, if they had died, family or representatives — investigators say the attorneys diverted the checks to their own accounts.
Carey Codd: “The investigation revealed that these attorneys did not represent these people, and that money never made it to the rightful recipients. One of the victims in these cases said he was in such financial distress that he struggled to pay for his mother’s funeral.”
Overby appeared via video conference in Broward bond court Tuesday.
Judge: “The allegations outlined in the probable cause affidavit are rather disturbing.”
The attorneys are not the only ones facing charges that include grand theft and money laundering.
Detectives say some of the stolen money was wired to Illya and Patricia Tinker.
Judge: “The defendant is guilty of aggravated white-collar crime.”
7News viewers may remember the Tinkers. Our cameras were in the courtroom last year when the couple was convicted and handcuffed in another fraud case.
Judge: “The defendant is guilty of criminal use of deceased individual’s personal identification information.”
BSO called the Tinkers tomb raiders for stealing homes from the estates of dead people and forging fake documents for fraudulent resale.
Detectives say they uncovered the new scheme after the Tinkers were sentenced.
The Tinkers will remain locked up because of their previous cases.
Meanwhile, Overby remains in Broward County Jail after her arrest.
Sankar-Balram has already been released from jail after posting bond.
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