A married couple’s lucrative foreclosure fraud should’ve ended when they were convicted and locked up behind bars. But the illegal money kept flowing their way — thanks to two lawyers who were helping carry out the fraud, authorities say.
The lawyers, Rashida Overby, 46, and Ria Sankar-Balram, 40, were working in concert with the couple, using their expertise to help steal nearly $750,000 in surplus funds from the sale of foreclosed homes, Broward sheriff’s investigators say.
It was one of the larger schemes to play out in a South Florida: Unsuspecting homeowners — many in over their head with mortgages — were unknowingly being taken advantage of. The married couple, Illya and Patricia Tinker, were part of a ring that illegally took ownership of dozens of homes through the mastery of falsified paperwork. The thieves were making out big — some $12 million in real estate value big, investigators said.
Newly released records detail how Broward sheriff’s investigators turned their attention to the lawyers after Illya Tinker last year was sentenced to life in prison and his wife was sentenced to 35 years.
The Tinkers still are in a Broward County jail, expected to eventually be moved to prison to begin serving their sentences. Overby and Sakar-Balram were arrested Monday.
The new fraud cases involving the lawyers came to light after the Tinkers’ criminal trial, when a money laundering and fraud investigator noticed that a foreclosure surplus check had been deposited into an escrow account of one of the attorneys, said Carey Codd, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
From there, many more cases were uncovered and a full investigation began.
In various instances, Sankar-Balram, a co-counsel on the Tinkers’ defense team, or Overby filed documents with the Broward courts claiming to represent either homeowners, or the legal heirs of properties, who were owed surplus money from the sale of foreclosed property.
In one particular case highlighted in the arresting documents, investigators alleged the court issued a surplus check meant for an elderly woman in New Jersey through attorney Sankar-Balram.
Fraud and money laundering investigators tracked that check to an account opened by Sankar-Balram. Records say the money was then transferred to an account opened by attorney Overby, the registered agent for the Tinkers’ fraudulent businesses that landed them in jail.
Authorities then tracked numerous wire transfers of the stolen funds to yet another account, an account for a business that records say was opened by the Tinkers seven months after their 2018 arrest.
This business account also shares the same address as the Tinkers’ former fraudulent businesses.
Authorities initially began investigating the Tinkers in June 2016 regarding a sophisticated, large scale scheme where they took over homes in foreclosure by filing false and forged documents with the Broward County Clerk of Court.
The scheme mainly targeted dead homeowners and was carried out through their companies, Global Management Consulting Group and Global Home Buyers.
State records listed Overby as the registered agent for Global Management Consulting starting in 2017 and then for Global Home Buyers in 2018. Overby has been a lawyer in Florida for nearly 20 years. Sankar-Balram has been practicing law in Florida for 12 years.
Investigators say the scheme to lay claim to the close to $750,000 in foreclosure surplus funds began around November 2017 and continued until the end of October 2019, a year and a half after the Tinkers were arrested and a month after they were sentenced.
In one particular case in December 2018, records say Overby filed a motion to claim the foreclosure surplus on behalf of a woman. Records say the Broward County Clerk of Court issued a check to the attorney through Overby Law LLC in the amount of $277,349. But when a detective tracked down the woman whose name was used in documents, she said she had never heard of the attorney and had never received money.
Overby faces 29 counts of fraud, money laundering and grand theft among other charges. Sankar-Balram was arrested on the same charges with nine counts.
The Florida Bar is aware of criminal charges against the lawyers and has started its own investigation, said Florida Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker.
Neither attorney has been disciplined in the past 10 years, according to the Florida Bar’s database that goes back in 10 years. However, Overby has voluntarily asked the Florida Supreme Court to revoke her license for five years, records filed with the Florida Supreme Court reveal.
If agreed to by the highest court as well as the Florida Bar, this could stave off the possibility of a meatier sanction such as permanent disbarment. The matter has not been decided.
Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @ reporterkell.
©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.