Sonia Hall, 35, Broward County, Florida was arrested in connection with allegations that she was involved in a South Florida land fraud scam. She is accused of participating in an elaborate scheme that defrauded international victims out of valuable plots of land in Highlands and Okeechobee Counties, Florida which are now worth as much as $910,000.
An investigation that began last July uncovered a land fraud ring that created fraudulent deeds to transfer ownership of building lots in several Highlands County and Okeechobee County subdivisions. The scheme targeted landowners who lived in Canada or Puerto Rico. From June to December 2004, members of the ring created the deeds and forged the victimsâ€™ signatures, making it appear as if the victims had willingly given up ownership of their properties. Hall, a Notary Public, then notarized the signatures indicating she had properly witnessed the signatures and examined the victim’s identification. Some of the signatures Hall notarized were of individuals who died several years earlier.
“This is an outrageous abuse of public trust for financial gain,” said Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist. “We intend to bring all who were involved in these unscrupulous actions to justice.”
The scheme was uncovered when the Highlands County Clerk’s Office contacted a victim regarding a problem with the deed he supposedly signed over. The victim, who never signed the deed, contacted Hall directly and discovered she had fraudulently notarized his signature.
The properties were transferred through various individuals to an offshore corporation. At the time of the transfers, the properties were worth more than $500,000. Today, they are worth a combined $910,000, according to the propertiesâ€™ developer.
Hall is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit organized fraud, a second-degree felony, and six counts of false or fraudulent acknowledgment by a notary, a third-degree felony. If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 45 years in prison and fines up to $40,000.