Woman sentenced for running South Bay home rental scam

Dianne 'Harmony' Brown, husband, son sentenced


A real estate agent who filed a number of false deeds on foreclosed homes that did not belong to her, then rented them out to unwitting victims, was sentenced Monday to 332 days in custody and placed on three years probation.

With credit for 192 days in jail, Dianne "Harmony" Brown must serve another 70 days in custody, said Superior Court Judge Leo Valentine Jr.

If she qualifies, Brown can serve her remaining custody in a work furlough program, the judge said. She was ordered to report for custody on Oct. 2.

During her sentencing, Brown tried to argue with the judge. But no matter how much Brown tried to argue with him, the judge wanted to follow through with the court proceedings as planned, even as she interrupted with outbursts.

"The fact of the matter is…," Brown tried to say before the judge interrupted. 

"Ms. Brown, if you interrupt again I will proceed and will have you placed in custody and proceed without you," said Valentine.

Brown then tried to release her attorney from the case in the middle of sentencing. She released her previous attorney at another court proceeding two months ago. The judge denied her request.

Brown refused to be sentenced even though she agreed to a guilty plea in her case in June.

"What I am stating is that the court has no jurisdiction over me," Brown said in one of her outbursts. "I object. I do not consent nor volunteer, nor do I waive the rights."

Brown, 46, pleaded guilty to six counts, including burglary, filing a false instrument and rent-skimming.

Her 48-year-old husband, Dexter Towance Brown, and 29-year-old son, Donavan Robbins, also pleaded guilty to rent-skimming as part of the scam. 

Dexter Brown, who has a lengthy criminal record, was sentenced Monday to a year in jail.

Robbins, described as a minor player in the scheme, had his 240-day jail sentence suspended as long as he successfully completes probation.

Defense attorney Albert Bradley said Robbins was trying to get his life together after going to prison for holding up a pizza store when he was 21.

The attorney said it was "unconscionable" that Dianne Brown got her son involved in the foreclosure scam.

"He (Robbins) decided to follow his mother to his extreme detriment," Bradley said.

Robbins said his mother's plan and subsequent illegal activity was designed to help the less fortunate.

"We're not malicious people. We're not evil people," Robbins told the judge.

The defendants were ordered to pay more than $176,360 in restitution.

Prosecutors said Dianne Brown targeted more than 30 South Bay homes in the scheme, claiming to be the owner of Prudent Constituents Association and Peerless Property Management.

After recording the false deeds, the defendant would cut off realtor lock boxes, break into the homes and have them re-keyed before renting them to victims, prosecutors said.

She listed the homes on Craigslist and collected tens of thousands of dollars in rent.


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