ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orange County couple thought they could trust the state-licensed realtor who wanted a $30,000 check so they could qualify to buy a lakefront home.
Weeks later, their money was gone, and the agent didn't return their calls, so they turned to Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich for results.
“It's a gut-wrenching feeling to know we're out the money,” Jamie Thompson said.
Days after Jamie and Derrick Thompson found their dream home, the real nightmare began. The Thompsons claim a state-licensed realtor cashed their $30,000 check for a home he could not deliver. Then they could not get their cash back.
“Are you hitting the panic button then?” asked Ulrich.
“I absolutely am. It happened so fast,” replied Derrick Thompson.
The Thompsons found a Windermere lakefront home listed on realtor.com by agent Robert D'Antuono, with Southeast International Realty. They were told an investor had already signed a short sale contract, but it could be theirs.
“In order to buy that contract, I needed to give him $30,000 to buy rights to the contract,” Derrick Thompson said.
The Thompsons wrote the check and signed a contract.
Days later, the bank rejected their offer to buy the foreclosure home.
D'Antuono sent them a $30,000 refund check but it bounced. Then he told the Thompsons that someone had hacked his account and stolen their money.
“It really did turn into a nightmare?” Ulrich asked.
“Yes. Yes. It's shocking,” Jamie Thompson replied.
The couple contacted the Orange County Sheriff's Office and Action 9.
Ulrich found the agency's license address in Dr. Phillips and went to that location for answers.
“I'm trying to find Southeast International Realty,” Ulrich said.
“They're not here,” replied an office manager.
“Why are they using this address?” Ulrich asked.
“Turn that off. Turn that off,” said the office manager, referring to the camera.
The manager said the agency left that location a year ago and should not be using that address.
Ulrich reached D'Antuono by phone and he said he had no comment.
But days later, the Thompsons got a text message. In that text, D’Antuono said they would get a full refund.
“I'm sorry. You did this to yourself,” Derrick Thompson said.
The agency's broker didn't respond to Action 9’s questions.
The Thompsons’ complaints to the Sheriff's Office and state regulators are under review.
A licensed real estate agent is required to document fees and deposits and terms of any agreement.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations is the state agency responsible for realtor licensing.
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