9 Investigates: Suspicious claims in an Orange County campaign



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - On his campaign website, Rick Singh, candidate for Orange County property appraiser, touts his "experience" and "accountability" for the property appraiser job.

But a WFTV review found that his campaign documents don't match public data listed by the very office he seeks.

Singh's financial disclosure indicates that he owns six properties, including a Windermere home, worth a total of $1.3 million, even though the properties are no longer in his name and haven't been for three years.

"How can someone who's running as an expert explain this issue," WFTV reporter George Spencer asked Singh.

"This is not a difficult issue to explain. This is an issue of fairness," said Singh.

Singh said he listed the properties as full disclosure even though records show he quitclaimed them, essentially transferred them, on attorneys' advice to his wife in 2009.

By listing an office building and five other properties in his name, Singh appears to own assets that are no longer technically his.

He said it was a step toward extra transparency since he's still paying the taxes and mortgages on the properties.

But WFTV what may be a bigger mistake: When Singh quitclaimed five of the six properties he paid just 70 cents each in documentary stamp taxes. That's the amount he would pay if the mortgage were fully satisfied. But Singh admits he still owes on the mortgages. That means, based on a formula from the Orange County Comptroller's office, he likely owes thousands in unpaid doc taxes on the transfers.

"We will take care of that. If there's an issue, and if I can verify there is an issue, we will take care of that appropriately," said Singh.

During financial distress, quit claims are sometimes used to safeguard properties.

Singh listed just $45,000 in annual income, despite continuing mortgage payments.

He insists his finances are in order.

"Were you trying to make your finances look more robust than they really are?" Spencer asked Singh.

"It was to be transparent, to be fairly, to be equitably," said Singh.

Singh called WFTV late Thursday afternoon and said he paid the Department of Revenue the $2,400 in doc taxes he owed.

WFTV tried to confirm Singh's payment with the state but were told such payments are not public record.