MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The building on South Parkway has been in Jo Dyson’s family for decades, but paperwork she says is fraudulent showed she no longer owned it. Dyson says without her knowledge, someone went to the Shelby County Register of Deeds office in March 2020 and handed over a quit claim deed, which is a fast way to transfer property.
A woman found out her property in a South Memphis neighborhood was no
longer in her name after someone reportedly forged her signature and
WREG’s investigator Jessica Gertler found out it’s easy to do and hard to fight.
The pink and brick building on South Parkway holds meaning to Jo Dyson. She’s had it since 1966, and inherited it from family.
Dyson wanted to finally do something with it last summer — or so she
hoped. Dyson’s property, in the family for decades, no longer belongs to
“When I got ready to do some work and do some things to it, I found
out it wasn’t in my name,” she said. “I did what? I sold my property? No
Dyson says without her knowledge, someone went to the Shelby County Register of Deeds office in March 2020 and handed over a quit claim deed, which is a fast way to transfer property.
The form must
be downloaded, printed, filled out with certain information like the
legal description, property owner and property address, and it must be
County Register Shelandra Ford said that, per state law, if a form
looks fraudulent or a signature doesn’t look right, they cannot ask for
an ID or do anything about it.
“If the document meets all the state requirements, then we have no
other choice but to file the deed and entry within our office,” Ford
In Dyson’s case, the form was processed even though she says it’s not her writing, nor her signature.
The woman who notarized the deed, Joyce Branch, couldn’t say it was
Dyson’s signature either. She didn’t know any of the people on the
document, she said.
Branch said a family member asked her to notarize some paperwork, so
he could buy some land. She admitted she notarized the deed before names
or signatures were on it — despite that being against the law.
Branch said the man who brought it to her told her he was going to fill it out.
“I explained to him that my name is on this. This is a legal
document. Don’t put nobody else’s name on there,” she said. “Guess he
must have sold them to somebody else. Which, I explained to him that
nobody’s name is supposed to be on those papers but your name.”
Branch’s notary license has since expired. She told us she never met the man, Charlie Allen, listed on the quit claim deed.
We haven’t been able to find Allen for his side of the story. Dyson
said Allen was involved in a murder on November 25. Police confirmed a
person named Charlie Allen was killed, but we have not been able to
confirm it’s the same person.
What we do know is that on November 11, Allen quit claimed the
property to a woman, who then quit claimed it a month later to Lacy
We went to multiple addresses listed under Collins’ name but no one answered the door.
Dyson said she contacted Memphis Police and filed a report. She also
had to hire an attorney to help prove this property is hers and get a no
trespassing order to make sure nothing else happens to it.
‘The law needs to change’
“The law needs to change. Something needs to be done,” said Dyson.
Tennessee state Rep. Antonio Parkinson said he would review it.
“This is unbelievable actually, to me, when you told me what was happening. Honestly, it was mind blowing,” he said.
Parkinson said he started researching ways to give the register’s
office more authority to verify property filings like allowing them to
check an ID or adding a two-step authentication before a change is made
to a property.
State Rep. G.A. Hardaway said he’s also working with the register’s
office and other groups to come up with a strategy that includes
increasing penalties and awareness.
“We also got to make it possible for the funding and the authority to
be in place for the clerk’s to catch it on the front end before it gets
flipped two, three, four times,” Hardaway said.
In the meantime, the register’s office launched a fraud program, where an owner can sign up to get email alerts when any new document — like a quit claim deed — is recorded.
But the office can’t stop it from being filed. You would have to
notify authorities, and then fight in court like Dyson is currently
“I’m having to spend money over and over,” Dyson said. “Each time it
changes hands, we have to get new papers adding another person.”
The register’s office admits fraud is on the rise but couldn’t say
how many of the nearly 34,000 property transfers last year were later
called into question.
MPD said the case remains under investigation.
Find out more
Thursday morning from 10 until 11, the register’s office will hold a
virtual town hall meeting on fraudulent deed filings and will talk about
other ways to keep your property safe. Parkinson and Hardaway, along
with Property Assessor Melvin Burgess and attorney Ursula Woods will
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