One word described how Jennifer Merin felt when she discovered a convicted criminal and his sons had taken over her Queens, New York, home: "horrified."
The worst part: city bureaucrats had basically OK'd the squatters moving in by processing a false deed — and there could be hundreds of other cases just like Merin's.
Image via NilsPix/flickr
Merin told the New York Post that she only discovered squatters were occupying her Queens property in May, when she got an unexpectedly large water bill.
“The house was maintained basically as a sanctuary to my family,” said Merin, who lives in Manhattan but stays in her Queens home every few months.
Convicted armed robber Darrell Beatty, 49, and his sons, Darrell Kash Beatty, 25, and DeShaun Beatty, 22, moved into Merin's home in February, and Merin said she discovered that her car and many valuables were missing — “Everything from Chinese palace vases to my underwear.”
She also discovered the locks had been changed — and city officials thought the home belonged to Beatty.
As the Post investigation found, Beatty had filed a deed transfer back in March 2013, but in the paperwork, he listed a nonexistent address for "Edith Moore," the person he supposedly bought the property from.
When the Post tried contacting Beatty via the telephone number he had listed in the paperwork, reporters got the voicemail of someone named "Tony."
Why was it so easy for Beatty to apparently dupe the system?
“The old policy was designed to be customer friendly," city Sheriff Joseph Fucito told the Post, explaining that deed transfers could be obtained online, required minimal info before being approved by a notary public.
"It’s very hard to be customer friendly and super vigilant [for fraud] at the same time,” Fucito admitted, saying the city was taking steps to fight deed fraud.
After Merin's case came to light, city officials started noting suspicious transfers, flagging 500 deeds since June alone.
Of those, the Post reported, 100 deeds impacting 300 properties could be similar to Merin's case: An enterprising outlaw duping the legal system into rubber-stamping the theft of an entire home.
Since discovering her unwelcome home-snatchers, Merin has fought Beatty in court, and while a judge has approved Beatty's eviction from the premises, he's been dodging court dates, claiming a disability. He's due in court Tuesday.
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