ID thief stole home from his mom

"On January 15, 2005 I lost my home and was forced to move. My life was turned upside down. I was devastated," Rosa Basso said. "I had to leave my home of 28 years and leave behind my whole life. My own son had done this to me. … He had lied to me and manipulated me and destroyed my life. …"

The Toronto Star
October 20, 2006

ID thief stole home from his mom
He 'destroyed my life,' she says. Son got $450K, mother, 70, evicted.
Harold Levy

A Newmarket man pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing his cancer- ridden 70-year-old mother's home and gaining $450,000 by mortgaging the property.

He then took the money, giving some of it to a man targeted in a botched gangland murder attempt, and put his mother on the street because he didn't make the mortgage payments.

The mother, Rosa Basso, was not in court yesterday when Frank Basso, 47, entered his plea but she let her feelings be known in a victim's impact statement filed in court.

"On January 15, 2005 I lost my home and was forced to move. My life was turned upside down. I was devastated," Rosa Basso said. "I had to leave my home of 28 years and leave behind my whole life. My own son had done this to me. … He had lied to me and manipulated me and destroyed my life. …"

Prosecutor Michael Demczur told Superior Court Justice Bryan Shaughnessy that the crime had to be taken seriously because "there are real victims here such as Rosa Basso and any homeowner who cannot rest secure in their own property."

The case played out against a political backdrop prompted by a series of Toronto Star stories about mortgage fraud. Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips introduced the government's real property reform legislation early yesterday afternoon.

Demczur told court that, after the mortgage fell into default, Rosa was evicted from her house and is still attempting to recover compensation from the province's Land Titles Assurance Fund.

The fund has come under mounting criticism in recent months as a result of several Star stories that revealed that it is an expensive, frustrating, difficult and time-consuming process that requires innocent victims of real property fraud to spend up to $40,000 on legal fees. It requires the victims to sue the alleged perpetrators of the fraud before they can recover any money.

These comments prompted Justice Shaughnessy to ask yesterday morning whether the province had passed legislation to protect homeowners from being victimized by real property fraud and to reform the compensation system.

Demczur explained to the court that early in June 2002, Frank Basso forged his mother's signature on a document that transferred her home to a numbered company of which she was purportedly a shareholder. In fact, he had forged her name on the corporate documents.

Basso then took out the three mortgages, transferred the money to the company, and then had the company provide it to him. In turn, he "funnelled" it through a lawyer to several individuals including a well-known York Region organized crime figure named Michael Marrese.

Court records indicate that Marrese was sentenced to two years less a day in prison on April 26, 2004, for mortgage fraud and, in March, received a further 31/2 years, less time spent in pre-trial custody, on additional mortgage fraud charges.

Marrese's name recently came up at the sentencing hearing of six men charged in connection with the North York sandwich shop shooting that left an innocent bystander named Louise Russo a paraplegic. Russo was shot on April 21, 2004 - five days before Marrese was sentenced.

Superior Court Justice David Watt noted that Marrese was an associate of the real target of the attack, Michele Modica, a well- known mobster.

In her statement to the court yesterday , Rosa Basso says she could only afford to move into a small one-room apartment in the Victoria Park and Sheppard Aves. area, which was not well- maintained but is at least near her friends and her old neighbourhood.

In fact, the apartment she now lives in looks out over the stolen home.

"I have never lived in an apartment before and it has been very hard to get used to. I can smell the food from other people's apartments and I have to go into the basement to do my laundry."

Rosa Basso says the eviction two years later was particularly traumatic because she had to try to sell her furniture and some of her other possessions because there was no room for them in the tiny apartment.

"I ended up giving most of my belongings away to charity," she says. "It broke my heart."

The victim's impact statement showed a difficult relationship between mother and son.

Rosa Basso says she and her husband put a mortgage on the home in 1998 and gave their son all the money they had left in their bank account after he convinced them he was going to open a restaurant.

"Frank never repaid the loan," she says. "I paid off the mortgage slowly with the money I get from my pension."

Rosa Basso notes that two years later, in 2000, her son, his wife and their two children, moved into "our family home" after they had lost their own home and had "serious family problems." During the next four years during which they lived in the home, "they did not pay a penny in rent or household expenses."

She suspects that the fraud stems back to April 2003 when her son got her out of the way for three months by buying her an air ticket to Italy, and took advantage of her absence to gain access to her personal documents and the deed to the house.

In spite of her support, she says, "after everything happened, my son and his family moved out of the house and I never heard from them again. I called my daughter-in-law and grandchildren before I had to move out to tell them to come and pick up their things but I never heard from them again. …"

"I have lost my grandchildren."

Life hasn't been the same for Rosa Basso since she learned her son had stolen her house and plunged her in debt.

"I find myself crying a lot, uncontrollably. When I think about my son I just cry. I feel constant pain," she says. "… I remember my son saying to me, 'Mom, I don't want to go to jail. If I'm going to jail I'm going to kill myself.'"

Still, Rosa Basso says that she worries about her son "every day" and that "all I can do is pray for him."

"Despite everything he has done to me, all the pain, suffering and loss he has caused me, I still can't help thinking about him and crying for him," she adds. "He is still my son and I am his mother. It kills me inside."

Justice Shaughnessy ordered a pre-sentence report on Basso, who will have an opportunity to make submissions on his sentencing at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 6.

with files from Tim Lai


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