Another person has been arrested for a complex ‘not for sale by owner’ real estate scheme spanning multiple counties in the state.
22-year-old Kiana Kiara-Alexis Russel is accused of co-conspiring to steal $300,000 from a dozen people. Tabria Josey was arrested last week in this same scheme.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents say they caught 20-year-old Josey red-handed in a complex real estate scheme.
FDLE says it can make the case Josey ripped off unsuspecting would-be homebuyers in six counties, including Lee County.
“By the time law enforcement gets done investigating this crime, it’s going to be even bigger than these six counties,” said WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko.
When FDLE announced Josey’s arrest a week ago, WINK News confirmed agents’ belief that she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of people, but we couldn’t get anyone to say whether Josey worked alone.
Now we know why. FLDE has made a second arrest, Josey’s lover 22-year-old Kiana Kiara-Alexis Russel.
“The fact that these two young people were able to do this makes me think there might be more behind the scene as far as who’s directing this operation,” said Kolko.
FDLE says together the couple listed homes they didn’t own on Craigslist, Facebook, Zillow, and more.
When a victim reached out, FDLE claims Josey and Russel acted like the homeowners. Then as a title agent, and faked the closing. Kolko thinks the duo had help.
“These two have been recruited by somebody to carry out this scam, somebody that had experience and understands what it takes to buy sell rent homes, it’s more complex than most people understand, especially doing this level. So somewhere, somebody’s got the expertise, directly, this entire operation,” said Kolko.
State investigators say Josey created seven fictitious title companies while Russel helped to launder money.
“It was an excellent piece of law enforcement work by FDLE and others working this case, but there’s still more to uncover,” said Kolko.
FDLE agents say Josey and Russel listed homes they didn’t own on multiple websites, but Josey went further than that. She created seven fake title companies and acted as a closing agent.
WINK News asked an expert for his take on the scheme and the red flags you can look out for.
“I think that would be the first real red flag if they’re trying to communicate through those sorts of outlets, be those social media outlets, LinkedIn, Facebook, I would say that’s a huge red flag,” said Chris Black, owner of Wingedfoot Title Company.
FDLE says the women did exactly that, and operating a title company in the state of Florida without a license is illegal.
Black said when in doubt, would-be homebuyers can check to be sure everything is on the up and up.
“That’s why that’s why I mentioned the department of financial services website and vetting them through there that really is the go-to place to find out if a company is legitimate, or a title agency is legitimate,” said Black.
Dealing with people or companies who do not use a phone or refuse to have an in-person meeting is also a huge red flag.
Look up the company. Look up the seller. And have face-to-face conversations.
If you are curious about whether a business or licensing agent you are dealing with is legitimate, you can check by clicking here.