BROOKSVILLE — Gaetano Antonelli came to distressed homeowners under the guise of a rescuer, investigators say.
Antonelli, 62, of Brooksville, identified himself as someone who could save homeowners from foreclosure cases, according to the Hernando Sheriff's Office, and then persuaded them to sign over their deeds.
Then, authorities said, Antonelli would turn around and advertise the properties for sale on Craigslist and keep the profits.
The problem: The properties did not belong to him because foreclosure cases had already been filed, according to authorities.
Antonelli committed the scheme on at least three occasions in Hernando and Citrus counties between March 23 and May 14, the Sheriff's Office said. He was arrested June 27, charged with organized fraud, and then released from the Hernando County Detention Center after posting $17,300 bail.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Antonelli claimed during an interview with detectives before his arrest that "mortgages are not legally binding contracts and that mortgages are a 'scam' backed by the federal government."
Detectives say they suspect there are other victims. Those who believe they or someone they know might be a victim should call the Sheriff's Office at (352) 754-6830.