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Man who tried to buy Christmas House in Brooksville back in custody

BROOKSVILLE — Convicted felon and con man Matthew Senge, who orchestrated a scheme two years ago to buy the now-defunct Rogers Christmas House Village, is back in custody in Hernando County — this time accused of impersonating a private investigator.

Senge, 40, was arrested Aug. 27 near Hastings, Minn., and was extradited to Hernando County on Friday on a warrant originating from charges filed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. He was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on one count each of organized fraud and operating as a private investigator without a license.

In January 2010, Senge, who then went by the alias of Matthew Hyde, gained local notoriety when he announced his intention to buy controlling interest in the historic Christmas House. The deal fell apart shortly after a story in the Hernando Times revealed that Senge was a convicted felon who was wanted on felony charges in Alabama.

Senge was later arrested and extradited to Baldwin County, Ala., where he pleaded guilty to a charge of theft by deception. A judge sentenced him to a 46-month prison term.

In November, Senge was released from prison. A few months ago, he resurfaced on the Internet as a Christian blogger who claimed his past had been redeemed through his belief in God. In addition to posting brief sermons on YouTube, he authored a book, The Word ... Today's Church Seems to be Ignoring.

According to a spokesman for state Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement, Senge's latest charges stem from activities he conducted before and during the time he lived in Hernando County.

Although he filed incorporation papers for at least three businesses dealing with either fugitive-recovery or process-serving services, state records indicate that Senge lacked the proper credentials to do such work.

A felony conviction for passing worthless checks caused the Florida Division of Licensing to revoke his Class D security officer's license in 2006. An application for another license was later denied.

But, according to state records, Senge used fictitious names to form companies that offered process-serving, fugitive-apprehension and bodyguard services. One company carried the mailing address of the Christmas House in Brooksville.

Senge's latest charges include one third-degree felony count. He was being held Tuesday in the Hernando County Detention Center in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Man who tried to buy Christmas House in Brooksville back in custody 09/11/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:25pm]
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