FERGUSON, Mo. – Jeff Hopkins says it happened when he left town to care for his dying mother. His complaint didn’t seem possible until we started investigating his report.
Our investigation took us to three cities in two states. The real estate broker, Sheena Cox, works out of an office in Bonne Terre. She took Hopkins home with the help of an alleged forged warranty deed, which was recorded in Feb. 2021. It shows it was stamped a year and a half earlier by a notary at the bank across the street from the broker’s office. The bank, however, told me its notary did not notarize the signature and that the logbook confirms this. Hopkins says he wasn’t even in the state at the time.
Hopkins originally purchased the property in question as a weekend property in Rockport, Illinois six years ago.
“I just used it for a weekend place, just to go to get away from St. Louis, just to go up there and hang out in the woods,” he said. “There’s a big bluff on the side.”
Hopkins had to rush to Daytona, Florida in 2019 to live with his dying mother. Meanwhile, he said he tried and failed to sell his Rockport, Illinois property to real estate broker Cox. He said he found her online.
Hopkins says months after that failed deal, he asked a friend to check on the place.
“A friend of mine drove up by there, was going to Hannibal and I said take the back way and take a look at the place and see how it is,” he said. “When he drove up there, he pulled over and said hey – you’ve got squatters living in the house and I said squatters?”
Tristen Smith was living there. She told us by phone she was shocked to get a message from Hopkins.
“I didn’t even know he existed until he contacted me on Facebook,” she said. “I never had heard of him.”
Smith said she’d answered an ad, by a company called Easy Own Homes – and a woman named Sheena Cox. Smith showed me her contract to buy the property for $35,000. She lived in the home from Oct. 2019 – March 2021 until she heard from Hopkins. Smith had made months of payments to a woman she said identified herself as Sheena Cox. She said she never met Cox in person.
Smith said, “I ended up ultimately calling the police because I was just confused, uhm, and they came over to the house in Rockport and he suggested that I go to the tax office, the Treasurer’s Office and also the Recorder’s Office to find out whose name it was in and it was in his name. It was in Jeff Hopkins’s name. It surprised me.”
That was just before the February deed apparently transferring the property to Sheena Cox was recorded.
We went to Bonne Terre to track down Sheena Cox. The Pike County, IL Sheriff confirmed an arrest warrant for Cox, filed for forgery. We also confirmed investigations by Bonne Terre Police and St. Francois County. A check of Missouri Real Estate Commission records found no discipline against her broker associate license.
Cox was not in her office, but she responded with a string of texts accusing Hopkins of acting improperly. She wrote, “Are you referring to the situation where Jeff Hopkins tried to scandal/resell one of my customers a piece of land in Rockport, IL that he no longer owned?!”
We explained that we’d already interviewed Tristen Smith and that Smith said her complaint was not with Hopkins, but with Cox.
Cox texted, “I don’t want to be on the news and I’m just too busy raising kids to help much. Thank you for your time.”
Cox was arrested on her outstanding warrant on Oct. 5. She’s now charged with felony forgery. She bonded out and has yet to give her plea in court. She’s scheduled for her first appearance in Pike County, Illinois on Tuesday, Nov. 9.