A pair of siblings have won their lawsuit over ownership of a parcel of land that was fraudulently transferred from their mother before she passed away.
Delivering a written judgement yesterday morning, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad upheld Brian and Charmaine Peltier’s lawsuit against the couple who the property was transferred to, the man they sold it to and the company the man eventually sold it to.
According to the evidence in the case, the lawsuit related to a parcel of land in Barataria which was purchased by their mother Joan in 1991.
Six years before their mother passed away in the United States in 2006, she executed a will and bequeathed the land to them.
It was subsequently discovered that in June 1993, a deed of conveyance was created, under which the property was purportedly sold to Rudolph and Shirley Scott for $100,000.
Another deed was issued in March 2013, when the couple sold the land to Winston Isaac. A third deed was issued in October 2015 when Isaac sold the property to Barataria Investment Company Limited.
The 1993 deed was registered with the last sale in 2015.
In the lawsuit, the Peltiers were claiming that the 1993 deed was procured by fraud as their mother was living abroad when it was executed and did not receive the $100,000 payment.
To buttress their case, the Peltiers relied on the evidence of forensic document examiner Glenn Parmassar, who examined the deed and concluded that there was a strong possibility that it was not their mother’s signature on it.
In deciding the case, Justice Seepersad said that he believed the siblings’ claims.
“Why did the testatrix leave the subject land to her children, if in fact she had sold same,” Seepersad said.
He said he considered the fact that the Scotts did not defend the lawsuit despite being served and there was no evidence that they paid the Peltiers’ mother as claimed.
He also pointed out that the registration of the deed in 2015 was a red flag.
“It struck the Court as being rather coincidental that the disputed deed was registered, 22 years after, on the same day on which the First Defendant allegedly sold same to the Second Defendant,” Seepersad said.
Based on his decision in the case, Seepersad struck down all three deeds.
In his decision, Seepersad noted that Isaac’s lawyers should have been more cautious when he purchased the land from the Scotts.
“Sadly, for too long this ‘land of fete’ has also been ‘the land of fraud’ and both the Second and Third Defendants appear to be victims of same,” Seepersad said.
Seepersad praised recent amendments to the Registration of Deeds Act, which he said should be heralded for their ability to mitigate against land fraud.
“If this legislation existed earlier, the unfortunate situation which occurred in the present case may have been avoided,” Seepersad said.
He suggested that Parliament should consider further amendments to the legislation to give the High Court the authority to grant extensions of time for registration of deeds as opposed to the Registrar General.
As part of his decision in the case, the Scotts were ordered to pay the Peltiers $14,000 in legal costs. Isaac and the company were not ordered to pay legal costs as Seepersad ruled that they lacked complicity with respect to the disputed deed.
The Peltiers were represented by Brian Camejo, while Lemuel Murphy represented Isaac. David Alexander represented the company.