SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County resident Gary Chestnut said a property that’s been in his family for generations was taken through a court filing, and it’s something that could happen to any of us.
“I never signed anything. My signature is not on anything,” Chestnut said.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after Chestnut says someone forged his signature on a Gift Deed, transferring ownership of his property into the hands of a nonprofit. That nonprofit is run by the same woman who notarized the document.
Investigative Reporter Karla Ray spent the last week trying to track that woman down and learned she’s not the only one trying to find her. The Sheriff’s Office report shows that investigators have made multiple attempts to try to reach the woman who notarized the records, putting her nonprofit as the new owner of the man’s property. When 9 Investigates went to the woman’s home, a tow truck driver was there looking for her, too.
It’s no secret that the lot in question is in disrepair.
“I didn’t have the funding to restore the house like I wanted to,” Chestnut said.
It’s always been Chestnut’s goal to fix up the home that’s been in his family for generations, and one day he said a woman stopped by to offer help to do just that.
“I thought it was a gift from God,” Chestnut said. “[It turned out to be] a boondoggle. It’s not a gift from God. More like a gift from the devil.”
He said the woman who stopped by claimed to be with a nonprofit called The Home Fund. From its most recent tax filing, the organization describes its mission as using “housing development as a platform for services to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people and build healthy communities.” Chestnut said the woman wanted to build multi-family housing on his lot, and he said no.
“I never signed anything, my signature is not on anything,” Chestnut said. “Somebody’s signature, but it’s not mine.”
Seminole County deputies agreed the signature on the Gift Deed that moved his property into the control of The Home Fund does not match the one on his identification card. The first witness on the filing is a woman with the same name as one of The Home Fund’s directors, and the notary who signed off on it is Karen Bobb—who owns The Home Fund.
“I was mortified,” Chestnut said. “What the heck is going on?”
We tried to ask the notary-slash-nonprofit director about the filing. We arrived at her Orlando home at the same time as a tow truck driver who said he was trying to recover a rented Tesla that was in his system as stolen. He confirmed it was a Karen Bobb who rented the car, and he could tell it was parked in the garage at the home thanks to a GPS tracking device.
She didn’t answer the door.
“There are no checks and balances in the system,” real estate agent Sharisse Watson said. “There’s no one that checks the notary to see who notarized the document, there’s no one who checks to see the witnesses are actual real people, there’s no one to check to see if the signature is a valid signature and not a forged signature.”
Real estate agent Sharisse Watson is trying to help Chestnut after she discovered the filing while looking at another lot on his street. Though the home itself is in disrepair, the Sheriff’s Office estimated the land to be worth around a quarter of a million dollars in its incident report narrative.
“We’re going to get his land back,” Watson said. “It’s a matter of time, and it takes work and effort, but we’re in it to win.”
9 Investigates forwarded information about the notary to the Governor’s office, which handles complaints against notaries. We’re still waiting to hear back.
The criminal investigation is still active, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
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