A Largo woman arrested last month and accused of trying to sell a mobile home she didn’t own may have been running similar scams targeting at least five other people, according to court records.
Olga Botello, 75, is facing three new grand theft charges and three additional scheme to defraud charges since her initial arrest on Feb. 22. Court records also show that she was arrested in 2019 after investigators said she collected thousands of dollars from investors to flip homes and used a portion of the money for other purposes, including $200,000 in donations to a nonprofit.
Botello’s business partner, 71-year-old Patricia Marks, was also accused of trying to fraudulently sell a mobile home in 2019, though those charges were dismissed through a pretrial intervention program, court records show. More recently, Marks was arrested after police said she threatened a woman who was a potential witness in one of Botello’s fraud cases.
Both Botello and Marks declined interview requests for the story. Botello’s criminal defense attorney, Brian Pingor, also declined to comment.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office first began investigating Botello for an alleged real estate scam in 2017.
Investigators found that Botello recruited investors to “wholesale” or “flip” homes and collected money from them to purchase and remodel the homes. However, Botello only used a small portion of the money to purchase homes and used the rest to repay other investors or for personal purposes, according to the state attorney’s office.
One woman gave Botello $613,000 to invest in Tampa Bay properties and Botello used “a majority” of the money for non-real estate purchases, including personal expenses and $200,000 in donations to an unspecified charity, investigators said.
The woman sued Botello to get her money back. In court documents filed with the lawsuit, the woman said Botello had only repaid $234,600 of the initial $613,000. A Pinellas court ruled in the woman’s favor, ordering Botello to pay the $378,400 she still owed to the woman.
Botello also took $20,000 from a man and woman who were planning to invest in real estate to save for retirement, investigators said. Botello told the pair that she would invest the money in construction loans but she used it for “non-real estate purposes,” including a $9,700 cash withdrawal, the state attorney’s office found.
Botello was arrested on grand theft and scheme to defraud charges in 2019 based on the state attorney’s office findings. The case is scheduled to go to trial in June.
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Around the same time, Botello’s business partner, Patricia Marks, was arrested on a grand theft charge, court records show.
Police said Marks took $1,000 from the woman as a deposit for a mobile home at a mobile home park located at 12300 Seminole Blvd. in Largo. However, when the woman applied to move into the park, management told her that the park, not Botello, owned the mobile home. The woman tried without success to get her money back, police said.
The case was sent to pretrial intervention and the charges were dismissed, though Marks was ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution to the woman.
Botello and Marks ran into trouble with the law again after Botello started running other real estate-related scams last year, police said.
Botello was arrested on Feb. 22 after police said she collected $7,500 from a man as a down payment on a mobile home in the Gulf to Bay Mobile Home Park at 2381 Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater. However, Botello did not have the legal rights to sell the home, the trailer park’s regional manager told police.
The following week, prosecutors added more charges for three similar cases involving the Capri Mobile Home Park at 24195 U.S. Highway 19 N in Clearwater.
The Capri Mobile Home Park was sold and is slated for demolition, so the homes have to be sold or relocated, investigators with the Clearwater Police Department said. Detectives were alerted of Botello’s activities as residents moved out.
“There’s some programs in place that are helping relocate people, assist with that process,” said Detective Brian Whitehead. “It came to their attention that (Botello) was up to some questionable activity.”
According to arrest affidavits, Botello collected $11,000 from two people as payment for a mobile home they were going to purchase together at the Capri park. Botello drafted documents for the sale and purchase of the home, listing the closing date as Feb. 29.
However, on Feb. 27, the victims were told that the mobile home had been sold to someone else, court records state. Botello told them she would find them another house and showed them another lot at that park, according to arrest affidavits. When the pair spoke to the owner of that lot, he told them the home wasn’t for sale. When they asked Botello for their money back, she ignored their messages, police said.
During that same period, Botello collected $3,000 from another couple who paid her to move their trailer from the Capri Mobile Home Park to a vacant lot at the Gulf to Bay park, police said. She continued to stall and give excuses and never moved the trailer, according to an arrest affidavit. The Gulf to Bay park’s regional manager told police that the lot was already sold to someone else and that Botello didn’t have legal authority to negotiate deals or write up contracts.
Botello is also facing criminal charges in the sale of another mobile home in the Capri trailer park, arrest affidavits show. Police said Botello sold a 1967 trailer to a man for $8,000, but told him it was a 1987 model, gave him the wrong dimensions and sold him a smaller trailer. The man never received a clean title, according to an arrest affidavit.
Botello’s first language is Spanish and she seemed to target the Hispanic community, police said.
“There were a lot of residents of Capri and a lot of residents at 2381 Gulf to Bay that are Hispanic, so I think that was her target group that she was focused on,” Whitehead, of the Clearwater Police Department, said.
Clearwater police recommended several ways to avoid scams: see all the titles and documents for a home before it’s sold, talk to management at a mobile home community and coordinate with a licensed broker or bank. Police said Botello was also able to take advantage of people by being “pushy” and pressuring them to rush into deals instead of taking time to do research and think things through.
“These trailers were being sold for pennies on the dollar,” said Sgt. Todd Turpack of the Clearwater Police Department. “If the deal sounds too good to be true, then more than likely it is too good to be true.”