TAMARAC, Fla. – A man posed as a dead woman’s grandson to steal her home, moving into her three-bedroom Tamarac residence, with plans to eventually sell it, the Broward Sheriff’s Office says.
Braden Emdin, 38, is accused of gaining access to the home, squatting there, and then planning to flip the home for about a half-million dollars when he was arrested.
Emdin, who gave law enforcement a Fort Lauderdale address during his arrest, is accused of maintaining that Muriel Meisler had left him her home and filing fake documents with the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office to show that. Records with the Sheriff’s Office show Emdin was arrested Aug. 17 on 17 charges, including fraud, filing false documents and grand theft.
This type of home fraud becomes an ordeal for relatives who are grieving the death of their loved ones and who then must cope with the additional burden of being victimized, says Broward Sheriff’s Detective Joseph Sommovigo. It “opens old wounds for family members,” he said.
Sommovigo is one of seven members working on the “crimes-against-property” team run by Broward Property Appraiser Marty Kiar. And Emdin’s case marks one of the team’s latest arrests as part of a crackdown on home fraud in South Florida.
Taking a home
Muriel Meisler died in October 2019 at age 96.
At some point after she died, Emdin submitted a document that claimed he could inherit the home – a “personal statement” purportedly from Meisler that refers to him, authorities say. It claimed that Meisler and her late husband had decided before her husband’s death that they wanted their “grandson” to have the house “so that he would have a place to make his own,” according to records. “My grandson honestly has been there for me since day one making sure I wanted for nothing,” it read.
But Muriel Meisler’s family says Emdin is no relative. Meisler indeed has children, and her son, who lives in Canada, was the legal heir and executor of Muriel Meisler’s home, investigators say.
Before Muriel Meisler’s death, she was the sole owner of her home, a three-bedroom residence with a barrel-tile roof in Tamarac’s Woodmont section. Property records show her and her late husband were the original owners in 1982 and purchased it for $145,000. Zillow estimates the house today at a value of $651,000.
Investigators for the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office, who are tasked with snuffing out crimes against property, say the fake documents included Meisler’s purported last will and testament, and Emdin’s birth certificate and an affidavit affirming he inherited the home.
‘He thought he was one step ahead of us’
On May 30 of this year, Emdin had registered the house with the county’s Owner Alert program, which notifies a property owner by email or regular mail if a deed is filed on their property changing ownership. The reasoning was so Emdin would get the notifications about the property, said Ron Cacciatore, director of the Professional Standards and Compliance of the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office.
“He thought he was one step ahead of us,” he said.
But Emdin drew more attention to himself when he called the office to ask about the process to take the property and identified himself as the nephew, Sommovigo said. Documents he would submit said he was the grandson, including what was presented as the personal statement from Meisler, who allegedly wrote that her relationship with her son who lives in New York “wasn’t really the best and I have made peace with that,” authorities said.
Finding a stranger at his mom’s home
Muriel Meisler’s son – who lives in Canada, not New York – had removed his mother’s possessions from the Tamarac house two months after her death. He thought he was done with the house, but then in April of this year, he was contacted by the city of Tamarac that someone was trying to turn the water on.
He was in Florida, and so he swung by the house and saw a woman living there. She told Meisler’s son she was a tenant and her brother lived in the garage.
The son didn’t think anything was amiss: He wrongly thought the bank had already taken possession and sold the home because it was underwater and his mother had a reverse mortgage, Sommovigo said.
Investigators say it was Emdin “squatting” in the home, there with three unidentified women.
Detecting the red flags
Because of the issues with Emdin’s paperwork, the property appraiser’s staff escalated the case to the investigations team, who quickly determined the signature of the notary listed on the paperwork had been forged.
Investigators would later discover Emdin was in the process of selling the home, which “was in deplorable condition” to a legitimate buyer for about a half-million dollars, Sommovigo said.
So they set up a way to nab him.
Emdin had arranged to sign a warranty deed for the Tamarac home at a title company in Cooper City. He didn’t know he was being watched by a plainclothes detective. He signed the deed, which authorities say fraudulently indicated the house belonged to him and he had the authority to transfer ownership. Then the deputies moved in to arrest him.
The Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Emdin, declined to comment Tuesday.
The fallout is still ongoing.
When investigators searched Emdin’s car, they say they found evidence of additional suspected crimes, including a notebook of about 63 people’s names, addresses, credit card numbers and pin numbers, Social Security numbers, tax returns, and property identification numbers, authorities said.
The notebook also included written instructions on how to file fraudulent documents, including how to answer questions posed by the Property Appraiser’s Office, research how to spot a fake check, and which banks use a 2-point verification system, Sommovigo said.
And investigators say they’re looking into whether he stole from a Davie business, saying they found payroll paperwork that shows he allegedly wrote a check to himself for $1,599.51 from its account, and a second check for $12,999 to the state Department of Revenue to pay a sales tax for a business Emdin owns in Wilton Manors.
The Sheriff’s Office and Property Appraiser’s Office are now working to find those dozens of people to send “victim letters” alerting them to be alert for identity theft, Cacciatore said.
“Marty Kiar, Broward County Property Appraiser, and Sheriff (Gregory) Tony want to assure the public that these crimes will not be tolerated in Broward County and, through their partnership, will work tirelessly to protect the homes of Broward County residents,” Kiar said in a joint statement released Wednesday morning.
© 2023 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.