If you asked Pastor Tami Robinson how she ended up being arrested for what has been called illegal activity, she would say that she was just doing God’s work.
Robinson moved people into two abandoned homes by filing paperwork with the Property Appraiser’s Office and then changing the locks on the door and giving the key to the new residents.
While Robinson says that the people she gave the homes to were struggling people who needed homes, authorities argued that her actions were illegal. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office called her actions a crime of burglary, fraud and grand theft and arrested Robinson and Samantha Magras-Gavin, a member of Robinson’s church.
After being arrested, now Robinson is suing the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office accusing them of harassment and racial prejudice. According to Robinson, she did not break the law because she took possession of the houses through an obscure legal concept called “adverse possession.”
Florida Statute 95.18 allows people to request that a judge give them permission to take possession of a home if it has been abandoned with the condition that they, amongst other things, fix the home up, occupy it and pay the taxes for at least seven years. Robinson asserts that she notified the homeowners through writing that she was going to attempt adverse possession.
According to The Tampa Bay Times, Robinson expressed her displeasure at being arrested because she says that if the owners of the home had asked the tenants to vacate the home, they would have done so without having to have deputies involved.
“I didn’t want to do anything illegal and if this is so illegal, why does no one stop you and say, ‘You can be put in jail, be called a criminal, be charged with grand theft?’ At no time during my filing — or while talking to the Property Appraiser’s Office — was I told this.”
According to deputies, one of the home owners was in Texas at an Air Force Base, in active service while the other owner was planning to sell the home in a short-sale.