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Graceland’s near-sale at the hand of fraudsters exposes ‘vulnerability’ in legal system

Northeastern criminology expert Nikos Passas said there’s steps the average person can do to avoid falling victim to a similar scam.

Graceland made headlines last year when Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ widow, and Riley Keough, Priscilla and Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, battled over the trust left behind by Keough’s mother, Lisa Marie Presley. The pair came to a settlement that left the singer’s famous Memphis estate in Keough’s hands through the trust.

Now, Graceland is in the news again with another claimant: a scammer.

An auction notice for a foreclosure sale of Graceland went up in May from Naussany Investments and Private Lending, a mysterious company that claimed Lisa Marie Presley borrowed $3.8 million from them in 2018 and put Graceland up as collateral on a loan she never repaid.

But there were many holes in Naussany’s story, including an affidavit from the notary on the documents who said she never notarized any documents from Lisa Marie Presley. 

A Tennessee judge put a halt to the sale after Keough’s attorneys said the company’s claims about the loan weren’t true. Shortly afterward, the company said it had dropped the claims. Then, an identity thief claimed responsibility for the fraud, raising even more questions about the whole affair.

Nikos Passas, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University, said the case exposes a vulnerability in the legal system — that such a shaky claim to a property could reach almost reach the point of auction — and should prompt the Tennessee attorney general to look into not only who was truly behind this, but what can be improved to prevent this from happening again.

Headshot of Nikos Passas.
Nikos Passas, professor of criminology and criminal justice, said Graceland almost being sold at auction over a fraudulent claim exposes vulnerabilities int he legal system. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“This is a prominent, visible and popular asset that was going to be sheltered,” Passas said. “People would actually take (another) look to see what’s going on here. In cases where this doesn’t happen because somebody dies with no family or no heirs, it’s a problem.”

This case was particularly strange, Passas said, because the fraud was so poorly done. There were a number of holes in the case from the beginning, including a lack of contact information for the company. There were also issues with the documents from Naussany, including the fact that it referenced an online notarization option not available in Florida until two years after the papers were allegedly notarized, according to the Associated Press.

“It’s unusual in that respect,” Passas said. “Anyone who is going to try and commit a serious fraud like this would have to do some homework first. … It’s more like a prank.”

Passas said the case made clear it can be easy to fake a property claim, but there are many things people can do to protect their or a loved one’s assets. For starters, Passas recommends creating a trust to make sure your assets are protected, as well as a will. A trust allows for the creator to transfer property to an account to be managed by another person, creating an extra layer of protection.

“The trust helps because it is less complicated for heirs to deal with any kind of challenges after the death of a person,” Passas said. “It’s evidentiary and it is protective. Otherwise, things can be challenged in court. It very much simplifies the process of how issues and disputes are resolved.”

Graceland was in a trust as well, but strong legal counsel can also help prevent fraudulent claims, Passas said, as evident by how Keough’s lawyers were able to act and stop the sale. Title insurance can also help potentially prevent your property from being falsely transferred, Passas added.

Passas added that buyers might also fall victim to fraudulent sales and should be on alert for red flags like being pressured to make a swift decision.

“The system is vulnerable and you can do all these things, but the system needs to be fixed,” he continued. “That is something the AG needs (to do). In this particular case, even without the required documentation, the case reached the point of auction. It shouldn’t have happened. There is discretion that is left to judges and that can be abused. There aren’t enough guarantees from the procedural side to take care of this kind of fraud. In cases where no one’s paying attention, this can take place.”

Erin Kayata is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on X/Twitter @erin_kayata.