New legislation aimed at reducing property fraud

Homes taken with a signature and a stamp; for months, 9 Investigates has been highlighting just how easy it can be to transfer ownership of a property with forged deeds. Now, the state is looking to crack down, but as Investigative Reporter Karla Ray discovered, the plan might not be enough to stop these cases from happening.

We showed you the signature on a gift deed that moved Gary Chestnut’s property to the control of The Home Fund, a nonprofit run by a woman named Karen Bobb, who is the same woman who notarized the very same document.


“I never signed anything, my signature is not on anything,” Chestnut said. “Somebody’s signature, but it’s not mine.”

Even if it were his signature, notaries are not supposed to be stamping documents to which they are an interested party. Despite this, Bobb is still listed as a valid notary in Florida and she hasn’t been charged with any crime.

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“This girl is going around attaching herself with a quit claim deed… really?” Chestnut’s cousin, Tara Dumas, said. She says the same thing happened to another family property just a few blocks away in Altamonte Springs.

In reality, something like this could happen to almost any property.

“What [scammers] do is create a fake deed transferring the property into their name or, another fake name, or a company. They contact a local realtor, or they just put it on Zillow themselves, and then try to sell it,” real estate attorney Barry Miller said. “This has caused a lot of problems in the industry.”

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Miller says this type of fraud most often happens without the real owner knowing until they go to sell or make a change. A new bill would place additional safeguards by increasing the steps notaries have to take to legitimize a document, and allowing property appraisers offices to note potential fraud in their systems; something Miller says will be tough to implement.

“Are they now going to have to examine every single deed?” Miller asked. “I’m not sure they’re going to be able to do that. And then if they examine it, how are they going to make that determination whether it’s valid or not?”

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Miller notes that by the time the deed reaches the property appraiser, it’s already filed, meaning the fraud will have already occurred.

“It’s not going to stop it. Is it going to put up some guardrails that may help? Yes, but it’s not a solution at all,” Miller said.

The bill is headed to an appropriations committee tomorrow. Bobb is under investigation by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

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