• 9 Investigates: 93-year-old woman has home stolen

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    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A 93-year-old woman in a nursing home hopes to return to her house one day. The problem is she doesn't have one anymore.
     
    Her neighbors called her to say someone had removed all her furniture and moved into the home. Channel 9's Shannon Butler has been investigating the story for several weeks and learned that police believe someone forged real estate documents to steal Vivian Smith's home.
     
    Butler was at the home Thursday when police showed up to serve a search warrant.
     
    Smith and her husband bought the house in 1965.
     
    In 2002, her husband died and she was moved into a nursing home shortly after. The house has been sitting empty since then.
     
    According to the Orange County property appraiser, Smith sold it for $100 on a quitclaim deed to a Humberto Rivera. She said she did not do that.
     
    "I swear to my God I never sold that house to anybody and I swear it, he's a liar," Smith said.
     
    Talking to Butler from her nursing home bed, Smith said she's never met Rivera.
     
    Smith said it is not her signature on the paperwork.
     
    The quitclaim deed was supposedly signed in 2010 but not filed for four years.
     
    The notary stamp of Tommy Lagree that is on the document also raised suspicion.
     
    Lagree, a registered notary, said he has never seen the paperwork and said it is not his signature on the document. Lagree said his notary stamp was stolen months ago.
     
    Records show Humberto quitclaimed it to relatives -- a Cheryl Romero and Vanessa Russel.
     
    Butler caught up with Romero.
     
    "Your name's on the deed to own this house, right?" Butler asked Romero.
     
    "Uh huh," Romero said.
     
    "Who did you buy this house from?" Butler asked.
     
    "Well, Vanessa and I got together to buy this house," said Romero.
     
    "According to the woman who owns the house you never bought it from her," Butler said.
     
    "Let me call her," Romero said, and then shut the door to the house.
     
    Now the county is investigating, along with Orlando police.
     
    In the meantime, Smith is waiting to see if she will get to go back to the home she has owned for almost 50 years.
     
    "I never sold that house to anybody. I wanted to keep it," Smith said.
     
    She said she intends to move back in someday.
     
    Late Thursday afternoon Butler learned that Vanessa Russel was arrested. She was picked up at her children's school and is facing a number of charges, including fraud and exploitation of the elderly.


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