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House mix-up - Property owner says she did not sell; attorney says "Yes, you did"; court asked to sort out dispute

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle

Patsylin Varsiana could not hold back the tears as she pondered how the title for her five-bedroom house, which had been left at a lawyer's office, was transferred to a couple without her knowledge.

Varsiana, of Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, fears she may soon be homeless because a mortgage company is now seeking a court order for recovery of possession of the property.

According to Varsiana, she knows nothing about the mortgage on her property because she has never sold or transferred it to anyone.

"Is on the roadside they expect me to live?" Varsiana wailed downstairs the Supreme Court building last month.

"I want justice!" she cried attracting the attention of many persons who stopped to listen to her plight and offer comforting words.

"I have been living at the premises for 25 years, and the only place I can go if I am thrown out is on the street."

However, the lawyer, Jeremy Palmer, in whose office the title had been left, was adamant that Varsiana made the sale and signed the sale agreement.

According to Palmer, Varsiana agreed to sell the property in 2007 and introduced him to the man to whom she would be selling it.

 

EVICTION

 

But Varsiana says she first discovered that she no longer owned the property in 2008 when a bailiff turned up at the five-bedroom split-level house to evict her from the quarter-acre property.

She said she went immediately to report the incident to the police and was given instructions. She reported the matter to the Fraud Squad, but to date, no arrest has been made.

"It is clear some fraud was done because I got a copy of the title from the Titles Office and I see my name signed on it, transferring my property to Devon E. Nelson and Michell Nelson of Thornton, St Elizabeth," said Varsiana.

"I don't know the Nelsons and I don't know the justice of the peace who signed, saying he witnessed the signing of the transfer between the Nelsons and me," she said with more tears.

The Registration of Titles Act Transfer was signed on October 29, 2007, indicating that the transfer took place on that date and that the sale price was $7.5 million. The document bore the signature of a justice of the peace , witnessing the signing of the transfer between Varsiana and the Nelsons.

A copy of the title showed that the property at 16 Beadles Drive, Santa Cruz, was registered in the names of the Nelsons as tenants in common on January 29, 2008, and that since that date, the Jamaica National Building Society has had a mortgage registered on the title for $5.4 million.

 

2 MILLION IN LEGAL FEES

 

Varsiana said she has spent almost $2 million in legal fees trying to solve the problem but without success. The case, she said, has so far been handled by eight lawyers, but she said the last lawyer she had on the case told her recently that "it was disadvantage" and he could not assist her anymore.

Jamaica National is now applying to the Supreme Court for recovery of possession because of arrears on the mortgage. The case went before Justice Bryan Sykes last month and was adjourned until Tuesday to allow Varsiana time to get legal representation.

Varsiana said that in March 2003, her husband, Stanford Varsiana, went to Palmer and paid him to transfer the property to her name.

"My husband died in May, 2003, at the age of 74, and I believed everything was all right," she said. "It was not until 2008 when the bailiff came knocking on my door, telling me that I must leave the property, that I knew things were not right," she said.

According to Varsiana, since that time, she has been seeking help from lawyers, the public defender, the General Legal Council, and the Fraud Squad, but without success.

However, Superintendent Clifford Chambers, head of the Organised Crime Investigation Division, which includes the Fraud Squad, told The Sunday Gleaner last week that he was just hearing about the matter and was going to carry out an investigation.

Palmer said it was Varsiana who took Nelson to him in 2007 and agreed to sell the property to him. He said Varsiana was very "chummy" with the gentleman purchasing the house and even referred to him as Devon.

Palmer argued that after Varsiana's husband died, she consulted him in 2003 and asked him to apply to the Supreme Court for a letter of administration for his estate so that the property could be transferred to her.

The attorney said he did the transaction and Varsiana accompanied the purchasers to Jamaica National for them to get the mortgage.

According to Palmer, after the sale was completed, Varsiana decided she was no longer selling the property and refused to leave the premises or collect the money paid for it.

"The man walked away from the mortgage. Her money was here from 2008 to 2013, and with all the interest, it could hardly pay the cost incurred in court," said Palmer.

He charged that the purchasers' legal fees amounted to approximately $8 million and all the money he had for Varsiana from the sale of the property had to be used to pay the purchasers.

Palmer, a former mayor of Black River, said he contacted a handwriting expert, who verified that the transfer and all the relevant documents had been signed by Varsiana.