Friday, December 9, 2011

Purported Renter w/ Dubious History Hijacks Possession Of Vacant Home; DA's Response To Victimized Homeowners: Don't Bother Us - It's A Civil Matter!

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Citypaper reports:

  • [Gerald] Sterrett agreed to help [Dwayne] Stewart try to negotiate a lease-to-own arrangement with his daughter and her husband, Heidi and Dave Conner, who had moved to Chicago and had been trying hard to sell their old house before resorting to renting.

  • One day, while Stewart and the Conners were still negotiating a possible lease arrangement, Stewart asked Sterrett to borrow the keys — just, as Sterrett tells it, to show his future home to his mother.

  • But — according to Sterrett and his family — Dwayne Stewart instead simply moved himself in at lightning speed, changed the locks and installed security cameras around the perimeter.

  • Now, almost a year later, they still can't get him out.


  • [A]fter several visits to the District Attorney and after doing what they asked — sending a certified notice to leave, obtaining legal authority to represent his daughter and son-in-law in matters relating to the house — Sterrett was informed in a letter from Assistant District Attorney Michelle Comia-Wolfe that his case "lacks prosecutorial merit," and was being rejected for reasons of "judicial economy," "prosecutorial discretion" and because a "civil remedy" existed.

  • In other words, Sterrett and the Conners would have to pursue the case on their own, in civil court.


  • Still, Stewart — as Sterrett himself explained to the District Attorney's office in a long letter — has a history that bears looking into. Stewart has been sued over a dozen times in Philadelphia alone.

  • In 2010, he was sued for alleged deed theft of a property on the 900 block of West Huntingdon Street and sued again by one Delia Boykin, a woman claiming Stewart had tried to rent the same place to her and bilked her out of her $800 security deposit.

  • A remarkably similar claim was made the same year by one Nicholas Jacquez, who also sued Stewart in landlord/tenant court, claiming the latter had stolen a $2,250 security deposit for the lease of another property.

  • Another lawsuit, filed by Bucks County couple John and Robyn Catagnus, alleged Stewart had bilked them out of more than $40,000 when, they say, he failed to deliver on a construction project.

  • In March, Stewart was charged criminally in Northumberland County for forging a $14,000 check to his own construction company. According to court records, that case is still open.

For more, see Home Wrecker (He says a scammer stole his family's house. Legal loopholes have stopped them from getting it back).

Thanks to Deontos for the heads-up on the story.

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