Notary pleads guilty to fraud, St. Pete man claims his house was stolen

Better Call Behnken

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office has reopened a criminal investigation into questionable deeds that resulted in multiple homeowners losing ownership of their properties, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett. 

The review comes after questions from 8 On Your Side’s Better Call Behnken about a St. Petersburg man who claims his rental house in south St. Petersburg was stolen.

“This is not something we’ve seen before,” said Bruce Bartlett. “We’re looking into potential charges of others.”

Tony Heh claims he was in Seattle, recovering from a stroke, when strangers filed a fake Quit Claim Deed in Pinellas County Public Official Court Records. 

Heh claims his name was forged on the deed that shows he sold his house for $0 to Johnathan Blue, a felon with a history of drug arrests. Heh insists he never met Blue or any of the witnesses listed on the deed. 

“I want him out of the house,” Heh said. “I want him to get arrested and serve the time he supposed to serve.”

Thursday, the woman who notarized the deed on Heh’s property, Brittany Varner, pleaded guilty to five charges of notary fraud. She received two years of probation and must testify in any other cases involving these deals. 

The state attorney’s office says Varner notarized quit claim deeds on five properties and that the homeowners say they don’t know her and didn’t sell their houses. 

One of those deeds is the deed for Heh’s property. He’s furious and says the justice system failed him. It’s been two years and he can’t get his house back.

St. Petersburg police said they finished their criminal investigation and in order to get Blue out of Heh’s house, Heh would have to sue him in civil court. 

“They just washed their hands,” Heh said. “They don’t continue with the case anymore.”

Blue hired lawyer Benndrick Watson and insists Heh sold him the home. Watson said the deed that Varner notarized is real, even though it was “sloppy” and listed the sales price as $0.

“The real victim in this case is my client,” he said.

Watson claims Heh paid a total of $18,000 in cash for the home, in two installments, and that Heh just changed his mind and wants the house back. 

“His lawyer say, ‘Maybe you were on prescription and don’t remember you sell the house?’ Seriously? I’m not that kind of stupid person,” Heh said. 

8 On Your Side will continue to follow this story, as it develops. 

Follow Shannon Behnken on Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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