HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. - Investigators say Gaetano Antonelli scammed several people into letting him sell their homes, when he didn't have the proper credentials. Deputies say he preyed on people who were behind on their mortgages.
Luke Daly planned to sell his home in Spring Hill, before Christmas. In September, he looked in a coupon booklet and found an advertisement that said, "We buy homes."
When he called the number, he talked to Gaetano Antonelli, who said he was a realtor that could help sell his house. Daly said, "He seemed real legit. He was polite. He had a real good sales pitch as far as getting you to work with him."
Daly signed a contract. He says Antonelli posted an ad for the home on craigslist. Daly said, "Things started moving along and people stared coming to look at the house, doing drive-bys, walk thrus, and stuff like that. So we figured this guy was on the up and up."
Hernando deputies say Antonelli is anything but, and currently faces fraud charges for preying on people who are behind on their mortgages. He tricks them into signing over the deeds to their homes and then lists the homes for rent or sale on Craigslist. They say when the money came in, Antonelli would keep it.
Lieutenant Michael Burzumato is the acting public information officer for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. Burzumato said, "Crimes of this nature, fraudulent practices, identity theft are one of the fastest growing in the nation."
They believe that is just what would have happened to Luke Daly, if a detective hadn't spotted Antonelli's new ad and arrested him when he caught him red-handed, showing a property again. Daly said, "I was pretty upset. I was perturbed."
Lieutenant Burzumato says there are ways you can protect yourself. "Make sure that the person you're dealing with is a trusted source. That they are a licensed contractor they have a legitimate business, before you start giving out personal information."
If you think you've been a victim of these crimes, you can call the Hernando County Sheriff's Office at (352) 754-6830. You can also visit their website at http://www.hernandosheriff.org/ and click on the "Scam and fraud information" link.