Fraud squad cops warn: Land fraud on the rise

File photo -
File photo -

Officers of the Fraud Squad are warning the public that the dollar value associated with fraudulent transactions for land and properties has increased compared to last year.

The trend was reported by W/ Insp Tricia Smith as she read facts and statistics relating to land fraud during the weekly police media briefing on Sackville Street, Port of Spain, on Thursday.

Smith said for the year thus far there have been 35 reports of land fraud with a total amount of $9,874,283.36 compared to last year's figure of $4,459,525.

She noted that fraudsters not only use forged documents from state agencies but sometimes posed as the legitimate property owners to lure potential victims.

"This type of fraud includes the use of fraudulent completion certificates, Town and Country building approval, permission to occupy state lands, fraudulent Land Settlement Agency letters as well as the person's paying for land for people and not to the legitimate homeowners.

"So essentially they take over the identity of a bonafide homeowner using a genuine deed and then you end up making payments to them.

"What happens there a lot of times, is after the person goes into the mortgage, (they) will discover that the bonafide owner did not sell the land, you will have instances where people pay a mortgage for something they don't have.

"We also want to tell people to avoid cash transactions of this kind because it can be devastating."

Smith suggested that potential customers perform a title search through the Registrar General's department to find the last owner of a property.

She also urged the public to be on the lookout for certain clues which could indicate the "owners" of a parcel of land were not the legitimate owners.

"If the property is sold regularly, because there are instances whereby homeowners purchase what we call a 'hot potato' try to sell it off quickly.

"So if you see a property being sold on a number of occasions within a short period of time that's also a red flag to the customer."

On May 4, a man and woman were arrested during a sting operation when they tried to sell a parcel of land in Santa Cruz that they did not own to a senior police officer.

Police said the duo were charged with forgery by possession, uttering a forged document and conspiracy to commit fraud.


"Fraud squad cops warn: Land fraud on the rise"

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