DELTONA, Fla. - A Volusia County man was arrested Thursday on charges of an organized scheme to defraud.
The investigation into 57-year-old Michael Soto started four months ago after the elderly owners of a foreclosed home went to authorities.
The couple said they were struggling to make ends meet and Soto tricked them into signing over the deed to their home.
Soto then allegedly rented it out for a year and pocketed the money in the process, but the victims were on the hook for the mortgage, investigators said.
They said Soto met the couple at a Publix store, where he’d shop for other alleged victim.
Three workers at the store said they fell victim to Soto’s scams.
Many were distressed homeowners; others were looking for an investment opportunity.
Michele Tlougan said she was one of them.
“He seemed like a real likable guy, a smooth talker. He seemed harmless,” Tlougan said.
The Deltona house that she signed off on for Soto to manage was also foreclosed on.
“I’ve got a foreclosure on my credit now and I had excellent credit. Now I don’t,” she said.
Soto told Channel 9’s Anthony DiLorenzo he was just trying to help homeowners who had fallen on hard times.
“I have no regrets. I have done nothing wrong,” Soto said. “I have committed no crime. I have done nothing wrong.”
Despite being accused of conning dozens of other victims, deputies said many of them never reported Soto and now the statute of limitations has expired.