What you need to know about illegal deed transfers and tampering with public records in Philadelphia
Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story which highlighted a Mayoral Candidate, Amen Brown, who one time faced felony charges after he allegedly bought a house from a person in 2014 who was allegedly dead at the time of the sale. The person died over a decade before the sale!
Brown was arrested in 2014 after he allegedly bought a rowhouse on the 2300 block Reed Street for $15,000 from Norma Johnson. She died in 2003! It was alleged that the Deed was forged, transferred to the perpetrator, who thereafter sold for profit. These charges were again dropped. Brown maintains his innocence and his attorney has claimed that Brown was a victim of fraud himself. Brown was sued in Civil Court and the Judge ruled that the transfer was null and void.
The charges were later dropped, but a Judge did rule that the sale, was fraudulent. Given the seriousness of these criminal offenses and the allegations that Brown has conducted questionable business practices within the Commonwealth, it will likely come into play during his Mayoral campaign.
Brown has a prior criminal history. In October 2006, at the age of 19, he was arrested and charged with felony drug dealing, but the charges were dismissed after five (5) months due to lack of prosecution and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has not commented on the case.
Is illegal deed transfer a criminal charge or just a civil matter?
While most people consider illegal Deed transfers to be a civil issue, it is a crime! Tampering with a public record (Title 18 §4911), forgery (Title 18 §4101) and theft by deception (Title 18 §3922) are all felony crimes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These are serious offenses in Pennsylvania.
What is tampering with public record?
Tampering with a public record is knowingly making a false entry or false alteration of any document which the government requires by law. This can include Deeds, Death Certificates, Birth Certificates or tax records. This crime is also committed when a person presents or uses any record, knowing that it is false with the intent that it be taken as a genuine information or record. While this crime can be graded as a misdemeanor, it is in most cases graded a felony of the third degree.
Is illegally transferring a deed considered a theft?
The crime of theft does not need to involve movable property like a car or a piece of electronic equipment, but also immovable property. While a house isn’t normally considered movable, it is affixed to land and therefore considered movable property for the purpose of this criminal statute. Theft of property in this case, the house, would include anything of value, including real estate, tangible and intangible property within the house; this would include contract rights and other rights associated with the property. Theft in this situation is a felony of the third degree if the amount exceeds $2,000 and a felony of the second degree if the amount exceeds $100,000 but less than $500,000.
Forgery is also a felony crime in Pennsylvania
Tampering, theft, and the crime of forgery do not merge for the purposes of sentencing and are all separate offenses. Forgery (Title 18 §4101) is a felony of the third degree and is committed if a person, with the intent to defraud or injure another, alters any writing of another without his authority or consent, completes or executes a document of another without their authority.
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