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County worker faces fraud charges in home transfer

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

A Wayne County assistant deputy treasurer and another woman were arraigned Thursday on fraud charges after they allegedly conspired to illegally transfer ownership of a home belonging to a deceased woman.

Felicia Ann Tyler served as Wayne County Assistant Deputy Treasurer of Land Management in December 2015, when she allegedly worked with defendant Donna White to fraudulently acquire a home for White on the 600 block of Burlingame in Detroit’s Woodward Village Neighborhood, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

The home belonged to Detroiter Edwina White, who died Sept. 7, 2015, and was not related to Donna White, officials said.

It is alleged that a quitclaim deed was recorded for the home on Dec. 18, 2015, a few months after the homeowner’s death. The home then was transferred to Donna White’s possession on Jan. 7, 2016.

The situation was flagged by a woman affiliated with the Woodward Village Neighborhood Association, after she noticed the property was transferred after Edwina White’s death. This woman filed a fraud complaint with the Wayne County Mortgage and Deed Fraud Unit, officials said.

An investigation revealed that Tyler allegedly destroyed one quitclaim deed on Dec. 18, 2015, and then created a new one bearing a fraudulent signature for Edwina White, officials said. She is accused of violating the Michigan Public Notary Act by notarizing the form without Edwina White’s true signature.

Tyler has been charged with one count of notary public violation, which is a four-year felony. She also has been placed administrative leave without pay from her position at the treasurer’s office.

Donna White has been charged with uttering and publishing a document affecting real property, a 14-year felony; forgery of a document affecting real property, a 14-year felony; and filing a fraudulent conveyance, a three-year felony.

Both women were arraigned Thursday by Magistrate Bari Blake Wood, who set $10,000 personal bonds. The defendants are due back in court Sept. 1 for a probable cause conference and Sept. 7 for a preliminary examination. Both hearings will be before Judge Shannon Holmes.

“It is the policy of the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office not to comment on pending litigation or criminal investigations,” Treasurer Eric Sabree said in a statement. “The alleged criminal violation is a matter not related to the work of the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office and our office is cooperating fully with investigators.”

Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood praised the neighborhood association member responsible for flagging the case.

“This is the second case in recent years brought to our task by neighbors. I cannot stress enough the importance of an active homeowners association to maintain the harmony and safety within a neighborhood,” he said in a statement. “In addition, this case also demonstrates the importance and the responsibility notaries have in real-estate transfers. Notaries are the gatekeepers to uphold the integrity of the documents. Our team assisted in amending Michigan laws reflecting their importance in a transaction. Notaries are now held to a higher standard and should review recent changes.”

Both Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy warned that fraud has lasting repercussions, including loss of public trust in government.

“Residents and property owners expect that the public’s trust will be preserved at every turn, and rightly so. If someone attempts to break the law, they shouldn’t be aided by those assigned to facilitate the process,” Napoleon said. “And we certainly won’t turn a blind eye to an offense by anyone, whether they’re in the public or government personnel.”

Worthy called on the public to report suspicious activity.

“Fraudulent transfers of property have the potential to erode our neighborhoods,” she said. “It is important to report fraudulent activity occurring in Wayne County to the Register of Deeds’ Fraud Hotline: (313) 224-5869.”

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier