Rashisa Overby, 46, and Ria Sankar-Balram, 40, were arrested on Monday and face multiple counts of fraud, money laundering, grand theft, among other charges. The second defendant was released on a $57,000 bond. The first defendant, who was charged with several more counts, remains held in lieu of a $140,000 bond. It is unclear if they have acquired legal representation.
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the two attorneys are accused of filing fraudulent pleadings in court claiming they represented property owners who were owed surplus money from the foreclosure sale of their properties. In reality, after the pleadings were approved, the two attorneys allegedly deposited the funds into their escrow accounts and never wired them to the property owners.
Both lawyers allegedly had co-conspirators identified as Patricia Tinker and Illya Tinker. The co-conspirators were nicknamed “tomb raiders” for their involvement in a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme in which they stole properties across South Florida, according to sources. They were convicted last year of aggravated white-collar crime, grand theft, criminal use of personal ID info, and unlawfully filing false documents.
The main defendants were working together with the co-conspirators and used their expertise to orchestrate the scheme to steal $750,000 worth of surplus foreclosure funds, investigators said. They continued running the alleged scheme from November 2017 until the end of October 2019, almost a year and a half after the Tinkers were arrested, sources indicate.
After the co-conspirators’ criminal trial, an investigator noticed a foreclosure surplus check had been deposited into an escrow account of one of the attorneys. From there, many more cases were purportedly uncovered and a full investigation began. In various instances, the two attorneys allegedly filed documents with Broward courts claiming to represent either homeowners or the legal heirs of properties who were owed surplus money for the sale of a foreclosed property.
In one particular case highlighted in the arresting documents, a Broward court issued a surplus check meant for an elderly woman in New Jersey through the two defendants. The check was tracked by investigators into an account the defendants operated before it was transferred to an account operated by the first defendant. The funds never reached the property owner, according to court documents.
Records show the first defendant has been an attorney in Florida for nearly 20 years, while the second defendant has been practicing law in Florida for 12 years. Neither attorney has been disciplined by the Florida Bar in the past decade. The Florida Bar is reportedly aware of the criminal charges against them and has started its own investigation.
Fraud crimes are usually “white collar” offenses that involve willful deception to obtain another person’s property without their consent. Because fraud is almost always a felony offense, the penalties of a conviction can be severe and can include incarceration, probation, and stiff fines, which is why anyone charged with fraud in Broward County should immediately contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney