MIAMI (WSVN) - Authorities have announced the arrests of three people accused of illegally selling an elderly woman’s land, as they work to crack down on elderly exploitation in South Florida.
State and local officials gathered on Friday to put a stop to a growing problem in South Florida.
“We will not tolerate elderly abuse and exploitation,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “Without a doubt, those who exploit and prey on our elderly residents have a cold, cold heart. These types of deed scams appear to be on the rise.”
Fernandez Rundle announced the arrests of Otis Lathen Powell, Shantel Vennissa Chang and Jason Webley Sr. in connection to a recent false deed fraud case. The three stand accused of illegally selling a piece of property in Coconut Grove owned by an elderly woman.
“She only discovered the deed fraud when she went to go pay her annual property taxes to the Tax Appraiser’s Office, and she was told they had been paid,” Fernandez Rundle said.
The three allegedly targeted a plot of land owned by 86-year-old Shirley Gibson. The plot, which had been in her family for over 100 years, was stolen and sold without her knowing, according to officials.
Investigators added that someone had forged Gibson’s name onto a quitclaim deed.
“Thank God they caught the people who were involved,” Gibson said. “Be aware, be cognizant of what’s going on because it could happen to you.”
Elderly exploitation is a problem in Florida that has worsened since the coronavirus pandemic began last year. In 2020, there were 9,252 cases in Florida, which ranks second in the U.S. behind California.
“These scams are becoming all too common, especially after COVID-19,” Miami-Dade Police Assistant Chief Armando Aguilar said.
Earlier this week, a masseuse was captured on video stealing jewelry from an elderly woman in Coral Gables, police said.
“Detectives in this case set up a surveillance camera, and it was able to be easily confirmed, as you see in the video, that the masseuse was actually stealing jewelry from her,” a Coral Gables Police detective said.
Officials said it is important for family members to stay connected and educate their elderly loved ones to help prevent fraud from happening.
“Our grandparents, our elderly neighbors, they need more,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “They need all of our help.”
Fernandez Rundle and Levine Cava said they want to create a task force to combat crimes against the elderly.
Gibson, meanwhile, is expected to get her property returned.
Copyright 2024 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.