Plot to Steal the Most High-Profile Property in TN Highlights Problems in FL

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CORAL SPRINGS, Florida — The fact that home title theft is a huge problem for all property owners came into full view last month when someone filed a foreclosure action on the beloved former home of Elvis Presley, Graceland—Tennessee’s most famous landmark. South Florida’s real estate and probate attorney Gary M. Landau, who has represented clients for more than 25 years, says this high-profile story highlights the issue in a way that hopefully raises its profile for Florida families. 

Despite significant efforts taken in recent years by the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office to combat title fraud and protect property owners, Landau notes that the attempted Graceland swindle described in a May 28, 2024, article in the New York Times underscores the importance of vigilance for all Florida property owners.

Title fraud occurs when someone who does not own a home illegally gains title to it. In some cases, they do this by filing a false deed with the property appraiser. In other cases, they fraudulently create a loan using the home as collateral, then attempt to foreclose the loan and take the home. The latter appears to be the case with Graceland.

“Sadly, attempted title fraud cases are not limited to celebrities, though the high-profile situation with Graceland serves as an urgent reminder to Florida homeowners to remain on high alert for title fraud,” Landau says. 

In the Graceland case, a source told the New York Times that “‘his [criminal] ring preyed upon the dead, the unsuspecting, and the elderly, especially those from Florida and California, using birth certificates and other documents to discover personal information that aided in their schemes.’” 

Landau has been educating the public on the issue of title fraud for some time. In a statement in December 2023, he said that “all crime is terrible, but stealing the home out from the heirs of deceased individuals is especially unconscionable.” 

Rather than everyday Americans, this time the criminal group set its sights on a significant target: the estate of the late Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’s daughter, who passed away in January 2023. The criminal entity claimed that before her death, Presley had borrowed $3.8 million from it, putting up Graceland as collateral, and they now threatened to foreclose on the loan by taking title. 

Last September, eight months after Lisa Marie Presleys’ death, papers were filed in probate court in California that included what it claimed was Presley’s debt. As the Times noted, “it included a deed of trust, with a signature represented as Ms. Presley’s, that put forward Graceland as collateral.”

The article further reveals that Clint Anderson, deputy administrator of the Shelby County Register of Deeds, challenged the filing, stating that their office did not have a deed of trust or any other documents on file to “legitimize this company foreclosing on any other property in Shelby County.” The Presley family trust, now led by Riley Keogh, Lisa Marie’s daughter and a well-known actress, is fighting the foreclosure in court, declaring in a legal filing that the loan was a fiction, the company “a false entity,” and the effort to sell Graceland a fraud. 

To help homeowners prevent title fraud in South Florida, the Broward County Property Appraiser’s office has implemented several important programs. One is the Owner Alert notification system, a free service that sends email or text notifications flagging potential issues to individuals in Broward County who have signed up for the program through the BCPA website. “I urge all homeowners in Broward County to sign up for Owner Alert,” Landau says.

Broward County’s Property Appraiser’s office also enabled its computer software to share data with the county’s Office of the Medical Examiner and Trauma Services about deceased property owners, a category thieves frequently target, among other actions.

“The implementation of computer software to enable the two agencies to share their data, along with the installation of a team of detectives dedicated to the problem are all excellent steps in the right direction,” Landau says. 

Unfortunately, other South Florida counties, including Palm Beach County, do not have such a program.

“As this Graceland story indicates, the seemingly endless number of criminals seeking to exploit the rightful heirs of homeowners emphasizes the need for vigilance,” Landau says. “Anyone who has questions about the title of their home should reach out to a  knowledgeable and experienced Florida real estate and probate attorney on all matters concerning real estate closings, probate, wills, and trusts.”

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With more than 25 years of experience and countless satisfied clients, Gary M. Landau and his team are uniquely positioned to help you with your probate and real estate needs in South Florida. Whether you’re ready to probate a loved one’s estate or to write your own will, or if you are purchasing a home, have inherited a home, or want a closing agent to handle title insurance and all documents for your closing or refinancing, the Law Office of Gary M. Landau is ready to work with you.

Call our office at (954) 979-6566 or complete our online form today to schedule a free consultation. We work with our clients in person, over the phone, or on Zoom.

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