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Former candidate for Hernando sheriff charged in home rental scheme

SPRING HILL — Luke Frazier made headlines in 2008 when, as a candidate for Hernando County sheriff, he called incumbent Rich Nugent a liar and a criminal.

By then, authorities said Wednesday, Frazier had already forged a deed on a vacant two-bedroom house in Spring Hill and was collecting rent on the property, which he did not own. He kept the scheme going for six years, investigators say.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old Brooksville resident was arrested and charged with fraud and perjury.

The Hernando Sheriff's Office gave this account:

In March 2007, Frazier filed a quitclaim deed granting the house on New Hope Road to a corporation he created. Investigators suspect he started leasing the house even before that, perhaps as early as 2006.

In November 2011, tenants stopped paying rent after Frazier failed to return their calls complaining about a leaky roof and overflowing septic tank. They grew suspicious and called the Sheriff's Office because Frazier never contacted them for the outstanding rent money.

Investigators learned that the house is actually owned by a man named Richard Goszczynski. They contacted Goszczynski, who said he'd never met Frazier and that the signature on the deed was forged. In fact, his name was misspelled.

A friend had willed the property to Goszczynski in 1999, but he did not become aware that he owned the property until detectives contacted him, said sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Maloney.

Detectives contacted the renters, who reviewed photos and identified Frazier as the man who rented the house to them.

In August, as detectives were still investigating, another tenant called to report that the house had been burglarized and that Frazier was likely the culprit. During an interview with investigators about the burglary this month, Frazier offered inconsistent stories and was unable to respond to questions.

On Tuesday, detectives learned that Frazier had visited the courthouse to have the current tenant evicted — committing perjury by signing the eviction documents. He was arrested at the house later that day as he was cleaning out the tenant's belongings and changing the locks.

Built in 1986, the house was worth about $62,000 in 2007, detectives said. The property's market value is now $44,302, records show.

Investigators say Frazier leased the house to three or four sets of tenants and collected a total of $9,050 from the last two.

He was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on Tuesday afternoon and released Wednesday morning after posting $4,500 bail, records show.

The burglary investigation continues, and more charges may be forthcoming.

Frazier ran a failed campaign for county commissioner as a 19-year-old in 2004, finishing third with 16.1 percent of the vote in the District 1 Republican primary.

Running as a Democrat in the sheriff's race four years later, Frazier claimed Nugent used his powerful office to quiet political opponents. He also accused the Republican sheriff, now a member of Congress, of unfairly targeting him personally, noting that he'd been arrested four times in Hernando County since 2004.

Frazier went on to win 26 percent of the vote in the two-way general election contest.

Frazier was arrested in Hillsborough County in 2011 on charges of insurance fraud and grand theft, records show, but a jury acquitted him of both counts.

News researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Former candidate for Hernando sheriff charged in home rental scheme 09/26/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 8:21pm]
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