TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Last weekend, a crook’s plans to steal a 10-acre plot of vacant land and sell it for $150,000 fell apart.
Jerry and Christine Penhollow discovered someone forged names and listed their property for sale.
Amii Quinones is the title manager for Champions Title Services. If things had gone according to the crook’s plan, this deal would have wound up on her desk after RE/MAX Champions found a buyer.
“I have been in the business since 1997, and in the last two years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Quinones said. “Something needs to be done.”
Quinones says she’s confident her office would have caught the fraud, as they have in countless other cases. But, she adds, crooks continue to go after deals like this one because some title companies fall for the scheme.
“Documents will get signed, a deed will get signed, somebody will collect the information on where to wire the money and once the money is gone, it’s unrecoverable, in most cases,” she said.
Penhollow says that when law enforcement heard no money had exchanged hands yet, they weren’t interested.
Investigator Shannon Behnken called the sheriff’s office and was told they’d look into this. Hours later, Penhollow said they called him to proceed with an official report and assigning a detective on the case.
Meanwhile, the broker at RE/MAX Champions says Florida law does not require ID when a property is listed. However, some real estate agents say they will now start requiring more proof of ownership before listing a property, even though it’s not required.