MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A squatter remains in control of a multi-million dollar east Memphis mansion. So why haven't police just kicked her out? The answer, it's complicated.
Sovereign citizens think they don't have to follow state, local or federal laws, but that's not true. What is true is they've mastered how to file piles and piles of bogus documents, and straightening it out is a big mess for anyone who crosses their path.
Tabitha Gentry moved into a $3 million east Memphis estate. She doesn't own it, and has no legal right to it. But she filed paperwork at the Register of Deeds Office on February 25, saying she was taking over the property under the rights of the Moorish Nation.
The document has no legal standing, but anyone can file just about anything they want to at the Register of Deeds Office.
According to Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood, "We are really just a public notice, a bulletin board, that gives notice of the transaction."
Clearing up the mess created by a sovereign usually requires a trip to the courthouse. For example, to get Gentry out, the property owner will likely have to get an eviction warrant from a civil court judge.
State Representative Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) is trying to stiffen the penalties against people who file documents and try to take someone's home illegally; right now it's a just misdemeanor. The goal is to make it a felony.
"What they are doing is illegal and it's costing money and causing problems, and it's basically abusing the rights of other people," he said.
Shelby County Distrcit Attorney Amy Weirich Added, "All this does is give us a hammer to go after them criminally, but you still have the civil mess that has to be dealt with."
And that's the problem. Police can charge Gentry with a crime, but that doesn't mean she will move out.
Sources say this is both a civil and a criminal matter. But this isn't anything new, it's been happening in Memphis for years. The only difference now is this time it has happened in a $3 million estate.