It’s no surprise to uncover that one of the lawyers arrested worked as a “creditor rights” attorney:
Founder, Managing Partner Ria Balram is a civil litigation attorney whose primary areas of practice include real estate litigation, contract litigation and immigration. Ms. Balram began her legal career as a transactional attorney for a creditor rights firm before moving to their litigation department.
As a litigation attorney, Ms. Balram has handled numerous non-jury trials and successfully negotiated the settlement of contract disputes.
Originally from the island of Trinidad, Ms. Balram grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated with a Regents Diploma in Bio-Medical Sciences from Brooklyn Technical High School.
Broward Attorneys Accused Of Foreclosure Scheme With Convicted Felons
The four are accused of working together to claim surplus foreclosure funds held by the clerk of court
Originally published; Oct 6, 2020 | Republished by LIT; Oct 8, 2020
Two Broward attorneys were arrested this week for their involvement in a nearly $750,000 fraud scheme to rip off unsuspecting victims of foreclosure surplus checks, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
The attorneys, Rashisa Overby and Ria Sankar-Balram, worked with Illya and Patricia Tinker, a married couple nicknamed “tomb raiders” for another multimillion-dollar scheme in which they stole properties across South Florida, some of which belonged to the dead.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested Overby and Sankar-Balram Monday. Balram was released from jail after posting a $57,000 bond. Overby who faces significantly more charges — 29 counts of fraud, money laundering and grand theft among other charges, had bond set at $140,000.
The attorneys filed fraudulent pleadings in Broward County Court, claiming they represented elderly property owners or heirs of deceased property owners who were owed surplus money from the foreclosure sale of a property, authorities said.
After judges granted the pleadings, those funds never made it to the rightful owners. Instead, the money went into the attorneys’ escrow accounts, and some of it was wired to the Tinkers’ bank accounts, authorities said.
The Tinkers were convicted last year of aggravated white collar crime, grand theft, unlawfully filing false documents and criminal use of personal ID info in the tomb raiders scheme, which dates back to 2016.
Though convicted, they remain in county jail until their expected transfer to prison.
Illya Tinker was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars. His wife Patricia Tinker, whom also faced the prospects of a minimum 177 years behind bars, was sentenced her to 35 years in prison. The couple’s son, Darren Tinker, also part of the scheme, is in prison. He is set to be released in 2039.
In that scheme, a ring of thieves illegally took ownership of more than 40 homes across South Florida. Group members used fraudulent notary signatures to get the properties, then they lived in the homes, sold them or rented them, arrest reports said.
The group picked not only the homes of unaware property owners, but also those from the estates of 18 dead people, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.
A fraud ring was shut down. Then cops say they realized lawyers were in on it.
Oct 9, 2020
A married couple’s lucrative foreclosure fraud should’ve ended when they were convicted and locked up behind bars. But the illegal money kept flowing their way — thanks to two lawyers who were helping carry out the fraud, authorities say.
The lawyers, Rashida Overby, 46, and Ria Sankar-Balram, 40, were working in concert with the couple, using their expertise to help steal nearly $750,000 in surplus funds from the sale of foreclosed homes, Broward sheriff’s investigators say.
It was one of the larger schemes to play out in a South Florida: Unsuspecting homeowners — many in over their head with mortgages — were unknowingly being taken advantage of. The married couple, Illya and Patricia Tinker, were part of a ring that illegally took ownership of dozens of homes through the mastery of falsified paperwork. The thieves were making out big — some $12 million in real estate value big, investigators said.
Newly released records detail how Broward sheriff’s investigators turned their attention to the lawyers after Illya Tinker last year was sentenced to life in prison and his wife was sentenced to 35 years.
The Tinkers still are in a Broward County jail, expected to eventually be moved to prison to begin serving their sentences.
The new fraud cases involving the lawyers came to light after the Tinkers’ criminal trial, when a money laundering and fraud investigator noticed that a foreclosure surplus check had been deposited into an escrow account of one of the attorneys, said Carey Codd, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
From there, many more cases were uncovered and a full investigation began.
In various instances, Sankar-Balram, a co-counsel on the Tinkers’ defense team, or Overby filed documents with the Broward courts claiming to represent either homeowners, or the legal heirs of properties, who were owed surplus money from the sale of foreclosed property.
In one particular case highlighted in the arresting documents, investigators alleged the court issued a surplus check meant for an elderly woman in New Jersey through attorney Sankar-Balram.
Fraud and money laundering investigators tracked that check to an account opened by Sankar-Balram. Records say the money was then transferred to an account opened by attorney Overby, the registered agent for the Tinkers’ fraudulent businesses that landed them in jail.
Authorities then tracked numerous wire transfers of the stolen funds to yet another account, an account for a business that records say was opened by the Tinkers seven months after their 2018 arrest.
This business account also shares the same address as the Tinkers’ former fraudulent businesses.
Authorities initially began investigating the Tinkers in June 2016 regarding a sophisticated, large scale scheme where they took over homes in foreclosure by filing false and forged documents with the Broward County Clerk of Court.
The scheme mainly targeted dead homeowners and was carried out through their companies, Global Management Consulting Group and Global Home Buyers.
State records listed Overby as the registered agent for Global Management Consulting starting in 2017 and then for Global Home Buyers in 2018. Overby has been a lawyer in Florida for nearly 20 years. Sankar-Balram has been practicing law in Florida for 12 years.
Investigators say the scheme to lay claim to the close to $750,000 in foreclosure surplus funds began around November 2017 and continued until the end of October 2019, a year and a half after the Tinkers were arrested and a month after they were sentenced.
In one particular case in December 2018, records say Overby filed a motion to claim the foreclosure surplus on behalf of a woman. Records say the Broward County Clerk of Court issued a check to the attorney through Overby Law LLC in the amount of $277,349. But when a detective tracked down the woman whose name was used in documents, she said she had never heard of the attorney and had never received money.
Overby, who was arrested Monday, remains in jail. Sankar-Balram, arrested and freed on bond, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Overby faces 29 counts of fraud, money laundering and grand theft among other charges. Sankar-Balram was arrested on the same charges with nine counts.
The Florida Bar is aware of criminal charges against the lawyers and has started its own investigation, said Florida Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker.
Neither attorney has been disciplined in the past decade, according to the Florida Bar’s database, which goes back 10 years. However, Overby has voluntarily asked the Florida Supreme Court to revoke her license for five years, records filed with the Florida Supreme Court reveal.
If agreed to by the highest court as well as the Florida Bar, this could stave off the possibility of a meatier sanction such as permanent disbarment. The matter has not been decided.