TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County real estate broker Michael Bogsted has changed his plea to guilty in a scheme to defraud case concerning stolen homes.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputies accuse Bogsted of using deed fraud to steal at least six houses. Detectives allege he created fraudulent deeds and fictitious mortgage documents and transferred ownership to various entities so he could either take out a mortgage or sell to an unsuspecting buyer.
Bogsted was arrested in January and initially pleaded not guilty but has changed the plea to guilty in a deal with the State Attorney’s Office that would allow him to avoid prison time and serve 60 months probation and pay restitution and fees.
State Prosecutor Anthony Bradlow says the only way Bogsted will avoid prison is if he forks over $177,000 in restitution by his Dec. 6 sentencing date.
“I have to get money back for people,” Bradlow said. “It was important to me that he be a felon and be supervised for five years. This is the most money I’ve ever gotten in one lump sum for a victim, so it’s nothing to sneeze about.”
Some in the the real estate community question whether this is slap on the wrist for a real estate broker who is pleading guilty to using fictitious deeds to steal property. Bradlow says only one victim suffered monetary loses and that is a man who has a fraudulent mortgage in his name for $177,000.
“I want this victim made whole,” Bradlow said.
John Whitt Jenkins of Dunedin didn’t suffer monetary losses because he says he caught Bogsted red-handed. He describes the ordeal as a nightmare.”
“They forged my signature and they had to fake witnesses on there and a fictitious notary on there saying I sold my house for $160,000, and that was it and the county went with it,” Jenkins said.
It took Jenkins two months to get his house back.
If Bogsted fails to pay the restitution by the Dec. 6 sentencing date, he could face between 24 months and 30 years in prison.
Consumer Investigator Shannon Behnken reached Bogsted by phone and he said there was more to the story but that he didn’t want to get into the details.
“I’m happy to move on with my life,” he said.
To sign up for the alert in Hillsborough County, visit Property Fraud Alert or call (800) 728-3858.
To sign up for Pinellas County’s alert system, visit their page on the Clerk of Courts website.
If you’re in Manatee County, you can sign up for the alert system here.
Those in Polk County can find their alert system page on the Clerk of Courts website.