ORLANDO, Fla. — When a Central Florida man died of cancer this year, his family learned his house had been transferred out from under him through a scam that could happen to anyone.
His daughter says his signature was forged on a Quitclaim Deed, transferring ownership to a seemingly fake company with no business records in Florida.
Investigative Reporter Karla Ray has been looking into these deed scams, and steps you can take to protect your property.
The home off Kings Highway in Kissimmee was meant to be the legacy of Nicholas Cortese, but his daughter Lee Ann Canavan started the probate process only to learn the house had been signed away, fraudulently.
“My dad was the most amazing man, he was my best friend, and it was a very sudden passing,” Canavan said. “I looked on it, and it said it was signed and notarized back in April, when my dad was very, very sick, he was receiving daily blood transfusions, and chemo and radiation.”
The Quitclaim Deed, which was mailed to a Miami address, was processed while her dad was being treated for cancer.
“My father’s never been to Miami,” Canavan said.
The mailing address on the paperwork is for an RKKLN Investments Inc. We found no record of a business with that name or address in Florida, or Nevada, which the deed also references.
Canavan’s efforts to track down the people who signed the document have all been dead ends, except for the notary, who she says told her he did not notarize the document.
“Unfortunately, there’s no screening process to recording deeds. Anyone can record a deed,” Real Estate attorney Barry Miller said.
Real Estate Attorney Barry Miller sees this scam often, noting the paperwork is easy to file and tough to undo.
“It’s happening more and more and more, especially on vacant lots,” Miller said.
For Lee Ann, the process to fight for the property is becoming costly, but she doesn’t intend to quit.
“How can you just send something in the mail, and have a property, with no proof? You know, there’s no documentation as far as identification, it’s a nightmare. It really is,” Canavan said.
Attorney Barry Miller says title insurance could protect your property from being transferred in this way, and you can sign up for fraud alerts through your local property appraiser’s website.
Right now, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the deed, and Canavan has filed complaints with the Attorney General, Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and she is working to get this cleared up.
©2023 Cox Media Group