BROOKSVILLE — Luke Frazier, once a candidate for sheriff in Hernando County, was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs Friday after a jury found him guilty of organized fraud for renting out a home in Spring Hill he did not own.
Frazier, 28, was in custody without bail Friday evening at the Hernando County Detention Center. Sentencing is set for July 22. He could face up to five years in prison.
"I love you, Mom," Frazier said to his mother, Connie Frazier, a real estate agent in Brooksville, after the verdict was read.
"Love you, too," Connie Frazier said.
The two-story house on New Hope Road belonged to a man named Richard Goszczynski, though nobody lived there when Frazier filed a quitclaim deed on the property in December 2003, investigators said.
"I could convey the White House with a quitclaim deed," Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson said in his closing argument. "That's exactly what happened here. What's the motivating factor behind all of this? Money. Even if that means stealing somebody's property."
Defense attorney Jonathan Zaifert argued that Frazier lacked the criminal intent that constitutes organized fraud. He paid taxes on the property and repaired the house, demonstrating ownership, Zaifert said. "If that's not evidence of Mr. Frazier's intent to acquire the property legally, I don't know what is," Zaifert said.
Witnesses called to the stand in the two-day trial included Connie and Richard Frazier, Luke's parents, and former tenants. Investigators said Frazier rented the house to as many as four tenants, charging about $650 a month in rent. He collected about $10,000 from his last two tenants, they said.
The jury took about an hour to reach its verdict.
Frazier ran as a Republican for the County Commission when he was 19 in 2004. Four years later, he opposed incumbent Sheriff Richard Nugent, running as a Democrat and accusing Nugent of targeting him personally.
Frazier had been acquitted in Hillsborough County of 2011 charges of insurance fraud and grand theft.