What to Know
- Nassau County Clerk’s office has ordered all “quitclaim” deeds be scrutinized by supervisors before being recorded after an I-Team story
- The I-team made the Clerk’s Office aware of several possibly fraudulent deeds that were recorded by their office
- The Clerk’s office says since the I-Team story, they have flagged five quitclaim deeds that people tried to record
The Nassau County Clerk’s office has ordered all “quitclaim” deeds be scrutinized by supervisors before being recorded, the I-team has learned.
This after the I-team made the Clerk’s Office aware of several possibly fraudulent deeds that were recorded by their office.
This all started with Juliette Devonish, a grandmother from Freeport who received an eviction notice for a house she thought she owned.
In May 2017, Devonish says she signed a deed with Ramel Smith, also of Freeport, who presented himself as the owner of the house. She says she gave him at least forty thousand dollars as a down payment.
Devonish soon learned the deed was worthless and the house was in foreclosure. Devonish acknowledges her single biggest mistake was not using her own attorney and letting Smith handle all the paperwork.
“What she got from Ramel Smith is a quitclaim deed. It’s sort of a non promise or a non guarantee of anything,” explained her new attorney, William Durcan of Freeport. “Because Ramel Smith did not own the property it’s essentially a worthless document.”
The Clerk’s office says since the I-Team story, they have flagged five quitclaim deeds that people tried to record. They will continue to do this for the time being.
Ramel Smith declined to speak to the I-Team. While it’s not certain it’s the same man, our investigation has uncovered several properties in Nassau County with the name Ramel Smith on the deeds. Two of those homes are in foreclosure. A third home, which in a deed signed in 2010 granted Smith the house from its owner, was involved in a civil lawsuit. A judge ordered that deed be nullified because it was a fraudulent transfer. Smith did not respond to the lawsuit.
Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell examined our documents and said she will begin an investigation. She says the clerk’s office has no legal obligation to check if a deed is real.
“We do check when the deed is recorded that the section, block and lot number which identifies the property is accurate,” said O’Connell.
O’Connell says there is a new service homeowners can register for that will alert them anytime a document is filed for their property.
Freeport Police say they turned the case over to the Nassau District Attorney’s office in April 2018. The DA’s office says they are investigating.