By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Terry was far less healthy than his brother. "We didn't think he'd make it," Little says. "[Todd Jr.] was doing fine, but Terry had complications." Had he been born ten years prior, before recent advances in preemie care, he almost certainly wouldn't have made it. He had to take prescription medication to swallow food, learn to breathe on his own, and see physical therapists three times a week.
The next year, in 1999, Little says, she decided "to go back to school." So she moved out and gave Monroe custody of the twins. She was pragmatic about the decision, lived nearby, and says she saw them regularly. "I told myself: You need to get your life together," she says.
By the time Terry was 1 year old, the pressures of being a young single father began to overwhelm his father, Todd. And his rap sheet started to grow. "It was an inner-city neighborhood," he says. "I'm no saint."
On November 24, 1998, an anonymous female tipster told Hollywood Police about a crack dealer "known to her as Scotty," who was holding $200 worth of rock. So an undercover detective met the lean 18-year-old just after 10 p.m. in a parking lot at 20th Avenue and Johnson Street, according to court documents.
Scotty ordered the officer into his red Jeep Cherokee and gestured to a loaded silver .38 Smith & Wesson under the front seat. "Don't fuck around," he said. The plainclothes cop handed over $200 in crisp $20 bills, and Scotty then "counted out ten pieces." When officers arrested him, they learned the dealer's real name: Todd Durham. He was charged with one count of delivering cocaine and three counts of carrying a concealed weapon. Officers also found a $20 sack of marijuana on him and charged him for that.
Ten days later, while out on bond, he ran into a different Hollywood vice detective. At 10 p.m. on North Federal Highway at Johnson Street, Durham "removed a cream-colored rock" from a "black plastic film container," according to the police report, and dealt crack to the undercover cop. He was arrested again and charged with delivering cocaine. In May 1999, he pleaded guilty and Judge Joyce Julian sentenced him to 32 months in state prison and 18 months of house arrest for both cases.
These days, Durham says he was "set up" after a big deal went bad. "They ended up turning informants on me."
He says he regrets selling drugs but that "honestly, when you're young, who wouldn't want to live the life of a dealer? It's extravagant."
Adds Monroe: "He wanted the best for [the boys] and couldn't afford it."
When he began serving time, Durham disappeared from his sons' life. Grandma took over, but in early 2000, she ran into a legal problem of her own. That March, she picked up the phone and with soft, plump fingers dialed the number of a 78-year-old woman named Dorothy Pinnell, who lived in a nursing home in Bloomington, Indiana. Monroe introduced herself and asked for the elderly woman's bank account number, according to court documents.
Bank investigators soon noticed fishy checks and telephoned Pinnell, who told them a female caller had lied to her. She was made to believe "she had won the lotto" and "had to pay taxes on her winnings," according to court documents.
In October 2000, investigators called a bookkeeper named Dania Nieves into the offices of Republic Security Bank in Plantation. Thousands of dollars of phony checks had been cashed in Nieves's name, they told her. And they needed some answers. Nieves began to cry and confessed she "was part of a business... doing this basically at home." She explained she had taken orders from "two partners." The ringleaders she named: Sharon Monroe and a saccharine-voiced 41-year-old former Miami Beach saleswoman named Mary Lewis.
Together, investigators say, the three women had collected account numbers and printed fake checks from a computer, conning $20,000 from at least six elderly victims. After a two-weeklong trial, Monroe was convicted of organized fraud and grand theft. On September 21, 2001, Broward Circuit Court Judge Peter Weinstein sentenced her to three years' probation. Lewis got the same sentence. No charges are on record for Nieves.
Monroe won't talk much about the conviction. She says only it was the fault of a company she worked for and that it was her first day on the job. "I didn't know nothing," she says. "I was doing what I was told."
Adds her lawyer, Dennis McHugh: "She paid restitution — that's the only reason she didn't go to prison."
Four of six of the fraud victims located by New Times are now deceased. Another had checked into Lakewood Senior Living in Wichita, Kansas, where an operator noted he was "unfit to comment." The last declined to comment.
The week of the trial, Monroe requested a restraining order against her former partner, Lewis, who she said had threatened to "put lead into me." Lewis also "broke my windows with rocks" and "followed us in the car... trying to run us off the road." In conclusion, she notes, "My grandchildren are scared of this lady."
Reached by phone, Lewis would say only that Monroe has since cleaned up her act — that she has gone "from a one to a ten." Asked about the domestic violence report, she hung up.