Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Florida AG Takes Active Role In Vacant Home Hijacking Prosecutions As 'Adverse Possession' Rackets Span Multiple Counties

In Central Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports:

  • Without permission, he went into vacant homes, changed the locks and rented out properties, authorities say. And in a odd twist, the Plant City man claimed what he was doing was allowed by an obscure legal concept called adverse possession.

  • Until now, authorities have battled this unusual practice with local prosecution, but on Thursday — for the first time — the Attorney General's Office announced plans to prosecute two of these cases, both in the Tampa Bay area. In a statement, Attorney General Pam Bondi called the practice "shameful."

  • Chris McDonald, 47, of Plant City was charged Thursday with organized scheme to defraud and booked into jail. He owned a company named Chateau-Lan Property Solutions.


  • Deputies also arrested Demetrius Lewis, 37, of Land O'Lakes, on a charge of organized scheme to defraud. His business — named Help is Here Foreclosure Prevention and Credit Repair — ran a little differently than McDonald's.

  • Lewis would gather the addresses of vacant homes and for $1,000 teach anyone how to occupy them using adverse possession, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


  • Because their dealings spread across five counties, the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution will try these cases. But McDonald and Lewis are not the first two to be arrested in connection with adverse possession.

  • George Williams, 41, faces organized fraud, burglary and grand theft charges in connection with several Hillsborough properties he rented. He has pleaded not guilty. Also, Joel McNair, the Sarasota man who told the St. Petersburg Times that it was his idea to take over empty houses and rent them out, was under investigation until he committed suicide in May.

For more, see Florida Attorney General's Office steps into prosecution of bay area adverse possession schemes.

No comments: