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Woman arrested for stealing from deceased ex-boyfriend’s family, putting vehicle titles in her name

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Joanne Butler, 58, has been arrested on charges on stealing items, including vehicles, that belonged to her deceased ex-boyfriend, selling them, and fraudulently obtaining title documents for the vehicles.

According to the arrest report, Butler’s ex-boyfriend was declared deceased on November 19, 2021, and she has allegedly been attempting to claim ownership of his property since he passed away. The estate is currently in probate, and the deceased man’s nephew (the victim) told police that he has been having ongoing issues with Butler taking vehicles from his property. Butler has also allegedly been submitting fraudulent documents of Power of Attorney and a Last Will and Testament to the Clerk of the Court and using those documents to show she has the right to take and dispose of the property of the deceased man.

On December 17, the victim reported to police that Butler brought a tow truck to the deceased man’s house, cut the locks to the gate, and removed a 2017 Chevy Silverado. The truck was found at Butler’s house, but officers did not locate Butler.

On December 19, the victim reported to police that Butler was on the property again, trying to take a second vehicle, a 1998 Corvette. Butler allegedly used a tow truck to break through a fence, causing property damage. Butler showed police a title for the vehicle with her name on it, and investigators found that ownership of the vehicle had been transferred to her on December 13.

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The victim provided investigators with court documents that Butler had allegedly submitted to the Alachua County Clerk of the Court, including a Last Will and Testament for the deceased man. The will was dated April 30, 2021, notarized by Jennifer Butler, Joanne Butler’s daughter, and submitted to the court on November 29, after the man’s death. Investigators determined that the document could not have been signed by all the parties on April 30 because Jennifer Butler was in the Alachua County Jail from April 28 until May 18. Jail staff confirmed that Jennifer Butler did not have any visitors on April 30 and that she did not have her notary stamp in her property. The notary stamp expired on May 16, while she was still in the jail.

Investigators also found that the deceased man’s signature on the will was inconsistent with other signatures that were on file and “more consistent with [Joanne Butler’s] signature style.”

A second victim purchased the truck from Joanne Butler for $15,000, and Butler gave him the title on December 21. He went to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to transfer the title and was told there was a hold on the title. He tried to get his money back, and Joanne Butler did not respond.

A representative of DHSMV told investigators that Joanne Butler had brought a death certificate for the deceased man and a Power of Attorney and requested duplicate copies of titles to the man’s three vehicles on December 13. On the same date, she allegedly entered a “sold” back date of August 14 on all three title documents, signed the deceased man’s signature, and transferred title to herself.

Further investigation revealed a civil eviction case between the deceased man and Joanne Butler, filed on April 4, 2020. The deceased man was granted a writ of possession of the premises; the report notes that “It is very unlikely that the [deceased man] would sign over all his possession[s] to [Joanne Butler] while he is evicting her.”

Investigators also found multiple sworn complaints alleging that Joanne Butler had stolen jewelry from the man’s residence. They also found that she pawned several items of high-end jewelry between October 2, 2020, and November 10, 2021.

Joanne Butler has been charged with three counts of motor vehicle title fraud, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, grand theft, fraud, and dealing in stolen property. She is being held on $200,000 bond.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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