It’s always a good idea to have a trusted friend or neighbor look after your affairs when you cannot do it yourself. The owner of a house in the northwest part of Washington, D.C., made no such arrangements when he was unexpectedly detained overseas, and he lost his home in the process.
The victim had to drop everything and fly to Russia to look after his seriously ill mother. He thought his stay abroad would be short, but those plans changed when the mother’s condition deteriorated and he stayed with her until her death some time later.
When he returned to the United States, he found that his home was a wreck and he no longer had legal title to it.
No taxes were paid
While he was out of town, no payments were made on the owner’s District of Columbia property taxes or on his federal income taxes. As a result, the property went to a D.C. tax lien sale without the owner’s knowledge. The tax lien was bought by a private business for around $10,000 and the place went into foreclosure.
At that point, Emmette Brown, a 42-year-old man from Glenn Dale, Maryland, began acting on the victim’s behalf by forging his signature on power of attorney papers and other documents, and making false claims regarding the house. Brown then sold the property for $465,000 and used $277,000 of the sale proceeds to pay off the victim’s tax obligations and satisfy the liens. That completed the theft of the house and left him with a profit in excess of $175,000.
Crack investigative work
It took some exceptional investigative work by law enforcement to build a case against Brown and allow prosecutors to get a conviction.
Brown was found guilty and given a sentence of 16 months in prison on a mail fraud charge. After he serves his prison time, Brown will be on three years of supervised release. He also is required to pay $178,038 in restitution to the victim.
Difficult circumstances for the homeowner, to be sure. But always keep one thing in mind: Protect yourself at all times. Don’t make it easy for the creeps and swindlers to take unfair and illegal advantage.