Today Barbara Jean Harris, 40, of Fort Myers was sentenced to community control and probation for stealing a home. Harris was ordered to serve 24 months of community control followed by 60 months of probation for the charges of Second Degree Grand Theft and Burglary of a Dwelling. She was also sentenced to 24 months of community control followed by 36 months of probation to be served concurrently on the charges of Unlawful Filing of False Document Against Real or Personal Property and Uttering a Forged Instrument.
Harris was convicted of the charges following a two day trial in Lee County this January. The crimes occurred in June 2016 when Harris called the Fort Myers Police Department to a home she claimed to have purchased. She told them the locks had been changed and there was furniture in the previously vacant home. She gave the officers documents that showed she owned the property and when they checked the property appraiser’s website it also showed her as the owner.
Harris had a person who was with her pick the lock and had the officers check the property for squatters. Once inside the home the alarm went off and Harris claimed to have forgotten her alarm code. Shortly thereafter the true owner of the home, the victim, showed up and turned off the alarm. The homeowner told police she has owned the house since 1999 and never sold the
property to Harris.
Harris had filed a fraudulent deed to the house even using herself as the notary on the deed and had a bogus witness to the document. When signing the deed as a notary she used a previous married name to make it appear as if it were a different person than who the property was deeded to.
The community control portion of her sentence means that she will be on intensive supervision where she is confined to her home unless she is working or engaging in another special activity that has been approved in advance by her community control officer, similar to house arrest. She was ordered to have no contact with the victim and she must stay away from the location of the offense. She also must complete 200 community service hours and complete an anti-theft course.
The judge gave a downward departure in sentencing the defendant, putting on the record her health issues were being taken into consideration.
Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Royal of our Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.
State Attorney’s Office