By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN
TAMPA — Victor Clavizzao, one Tampa Bay’s most notorious mortgage fraudsters, is going to prison — again.
This time it’s for swindling members of a Plant City church out of $16,350 that they earmarked to build a new place of worship. Instead, prosecutors say, Clavizzao spent the money on himself.
"I’m just happy he got caught," Minnie Wright, pastor of the New Testament Outreach Holiness Church #2, said Thursday. "He needed to show remorse for what he did to the church. He stole our money."
Clavizzao, 56, pleaded guilty this week to one count of wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
A loan broker with a felony rap sheet, Clavizzao drew attention a decade ago not only because of his hard-to-forget name but also for the brazen way in which he conned banks, Realtors and even some of his own relatives. In 2009, a federal judge sentenced him to five years in prison for conspiring to fraudulently obtain nearly $6 million in mortgage loans.
It was among the larger mortgage fraud cases prosecuted in Central Florida.
Clavizzao was still on supervised release for those crimes when he started a series of companies, including Key Business Loans which operated out of a virtual office in downtown St. Petersburg. In 2014, while inquiring about life insurance polices, he met Wright’s brother, Carlton Brunson, a manager at a St. Petersburg insurance firm.
Brunson and Wright had picked out a site for their new church building but didn’t have the money,
"I asked (Clavizzao) if he did church loans and he said, ‘Absolutely,’" Brunson told the Tampa Bay Times last year.
At Brunson’s invitation, Clavizzao went to Plant City and ingratiated himself with church members, telling them he could arrange financing and handle all details related to their construction project. They handed over money for a downpayment on the land, environmental testing and other services before Clavizzao disappeared.
After a story about Calizzao’s involvement appeared, FBI agents interviewed Wright at her home. Others came forward with stories of how Clavizzao had allegedly bamboozled them, too.
He is out on bond pending his sentencing. A date has not been set.
Meanwhile, the New Testament congregation remains without a permanent building.
"We’ve had a rough time trying to get ourselves back in the place we were before Victor came into our lives," Wright said.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate