They weren’t porch pirates: Theft ring members stole whole houses, authorities say
Three suspects have been charged in what investigators say was an elaborate scheme to steal Broward County properties with fraudulent quit claim deeds, liens and litigation.
The three arrested suspects — Tyrone Jones, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Michael Dupree, 51, of Riverview, and Yury Domatov, 50, of Dania Beach — are accused in the thefts or attempted thefts of 14 homes, authorities said. Up to eight additional suspects are under investigation and more arrests are expected.
The value of the 14 homes totals $12.8 million, according to Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar, who oversees a new property crimes investigative unit that broke the case.
“They tried to steal 14 properties. We blocked them from getting 11, but they stole three. Two of the suspects lived in two of the homes,” Kiar said in an interview on Tuesday.
Jones was arrested on Oct. 11 at one of the properties the ring is accused of stealing — a house at 1621 Seabreeze Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale valued by the property appraiser’s office at $1.08 million. The Sun Sentinel has reached out to the Broward County Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Jones, to request comment.
Domatov was arrested Tuesday morning at another of the allegedly stolen properties, 4926 SW 44th Terrace, in Dania Beach.
Dupree was arrested at his home in Riverview, a community in Hillsborough County, on March 7 and will be moved to Broward County to face charges, Kiar said.
All three were in custody on Wednesday, jail records show.
Homes that the ring is accused of stealing are located throughout Broward County, including Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, West Park and Weston.
Kiar said that Jones and Domatov would find properties that were either bank-owned or owned by elderly or disabled residents and file lawsuits in Broward County Circuit Court seeking to have them transferred to Jones, one of his companies, or an accomplice. The court documents would attest that the properties were dilapidated or abandoned.
Notice of the lawsuits, called a “Return of Service,” would be directed to Dupree’s address in Riverview without the actual owners’ knowledge. Dupree would pose as the property owners’ authorized representative and file responses conceding to the transfers, Kiar said.
Investigators were tipped off to the thefts in June 2022 after a client of Broward County Commissioner Tim Ryan, who is a lawyer, stopped by a Dania Beach home that the client’s brother had left behind after his death, Ryan said in an interview.
While the client was outside, a woman walked up and asserted that she owned the home. She flashed some sort of law enforcement badge and told Ryan’s client to leave.
Instead of leaving, Ryan’s client took a photo of the woman, including the license plate of the vehicle she was driving, and called Ryan, who reported the encounter to the property appraiser’s new Crimes Against Property team.
Mike Fisten, an investigator with the team, used the license plate number to identify the woman and then found her name on court documents seeking the transfer not of the client’s home but of a home on the next street with the same street number.
The court documents included a “Complaint for Quiet Title and Declaratory Relief” naming the owner, Helen Measky, as a defendant, but listing her address as the Riverview mobile home owned by Dupree.
The complaint, filed by a suspect who hasn’t yet been charged, stated that Measky’s property was “depreciating” other properties in the area “due to the lack of maintenance and upkeep.” The suspect wrote that she was filing the suit to take over as owner of the property if the actual owner would not maintain it.
Notice of the suit was sent in Measky’s name to Dupree’s Riverview address, court records show.
A response, bearing Measky’s signed name over Dupree’s address, stated that maintenance of the property was a “financial burden.”
The letter writer conceded to the transfer, adding “I do not wish to be in any way contacted again concerning this matter.”
In an interview, Fisten said that when he went to the address of Measky’s Dania Beach property, he did not find an abandoned property in need of maintenance.
He found a “beautifully manicured” home occupied by “sweet as pie” Measky, 76, who had no idea anyone had filed a quiet title action to take the home she had been living in for 26 years. Measky died a few months ago, Fisten said.
Digging through court records for other cases served to Dupree’s Riverview address, Fisten turned up 13 other homes — two owned by individuals and 11 owned by banks, including Deutsche Bank, Mellon Bank, and U.S. Bank of North America — that the ring had tried to steal, he said.
Criminal charges filed in the case so far involve four properties, Fisten said.
Jones faces 29 charges, including four counts of grand theft over $100,000, burglary, plus failing false documents, using false IDs, impersonating another person without consent, and obtaining property by fraud, according to Jones’ booking record.
He gained possession of the Seabreeze Boulevard home where he was arrested after its owner had died and beneficiaries were awaiting disposition of his estate, Kiar said.
Domatov faces 10 charges, including obtaining property over $50,000 by fraud, filing false documents, and grand theft over $100,000.
Ten charges filed against Dupree include first-degree grand theft, filing false documents, and criminal use of personal ID information.
Investigators expect to file additional charges involving the other 10 properties against up to eight other suspects, he said.
Arrests of Jones, Dupree and Domatov are among the most significant by the new five-person property crime investigative unit working out of the property appraiser’s office. The unit includes two full-time investigators recently hired by the office, plus a Broward County Sheriff’s Office detective and a Fort Lauderdale police officer who helps develop criminal cases.
The unit was formed last year to address a growing volume of property thefts in South Florida due to the large number of homes owned by banks and people who are elderly, disabled or who live outside the state, Kiar said.
About 40 separate cases are currently under investigation, said Detective Robert Feick, a Broward County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the unit.
Asked about his role in drawing investigators’ attention to the ring, Ryan credited his client “for standing up to the woman and being astute enough to take a photo of her and her license plate.”
Ryan said he alerted the investigative team because he recalled Kiar’s request to the County Commission to fund more investigators. “It was fortunate my client acted fast, and I’m grateful that Marty Kiar really wanted to investigate this case and get to the bottom of it,” he said
Property owners are urged to protect themselves by signing up for services that will send email alerts if a document is recorded attempting to transfer ownership of their home.
Broward’s service can be found online at https://web.bcpa.net/owneralert. Palm Beach residents can sign up at: https://erec.mypalmbeachclerk.com/FraudAlert.
Miami-Dade County’s Clerk of Court does not yet offer an email alert service but mails a letter to property owners whenever a Quit Claim Deed is recorded for the property.
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