Tennessee lawmakers aim to increase penalties for filing fraudulent property deeds

Investigations

WREG investigation exposed one woman's fight to save South Memphis property

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State lawmakers announced Thursday they will file new legislation to increase penalties for those caught filing a fraudulent property deed.

A virtual town hall meeting was held Thursday morning to discuss a growing problem in Shelby County that News Channel 3 first told you about Wednesday.

Jo Dyson said without her knowledge, someone went to the Shelby County Registers Office in March 2020 and filed a quit claim deed, a fast way to transfer property. She said they forged her name and signature, and her South Memphis property that’s been in the family for decades is no longer in her name.

Dyson says the property changed hands through quit claim deeds two more times. She’s notified police and had to hire an attorney to prove the property is hers.

“There’s nothing the register’s office can do about it until the legislators come together and see how they can fix this,” Dyson said.

Per Tennessee law, if the deed is filled out correctly and notarized, the register’s office has to accept it. It doesn’t have authority to question it or even ask for ID.

County Register Shelandra Ford encourages everyone to sign up for her office’s fraud alert program. It sends you emails when a document — like a quit claim deed — is filed in your name, so you can notify authorities and hire an attorney to fight it.

Tennessee Rep. G.A. Hardaway also announced he is drafting new legislation to increase the penalty for filing a fraudulent deed.

“We are going to move that up to a class D felony but we are also going to add the quit claim deed into that section,” he said.

Hardaway also promised to reach out to the state and federal government for more resources to help investigate and fight fraud. 

Ford said fraudulent property filings are on the rise, and thanked WREG investigators.

“I do thank Jessica Gertler and her staff at WREG Channel 3 news for debuting this concern for Shelby County,” Ford said.

Ford will be on WREG’s Live At 9 on Monday to go over other ways you can protect your property and her fight to stop fraud.

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