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Couple's money buys pain

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:22 PM

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Robert "Jerry" Nestlerode balked when he saw the total.

The down payment on the Spring Hill home was $6,500, but then came the additional charge of $800.

Nestlerode said the seller couldn't give him a valid reason for the extra fee. The two bickered and the seller told Nestlerode's wife to keep her husband away from him. He told her all he was doing was disrupting an otherwise good deal.

Jerry Nestlerode backed off.

"We just needed a home," he said.

Six weeks and about $10,000 later they still do. They are on the verge of living in a tent.

The couple unknowingly bought a house that was under foreclosure. The Nestlerodes paid the $7,300 and spent upward of $3,000 for repairs after they moved into the two-bedroom home off Naomi Drive.

The man accused of selling them the house under false pretenses — Gaetano "Guy" Antonelli — awaits trial in Hernando and Citrus counties. He was charged with multiple counts of organized fraud. The State Attorney's Office Public Interest Unit in Ocala is handling the case.

Antonelli, 62, of Brooksville, contacted people who were behind on their mortgage and fooled them into signing over their deeds, authorities said. In turn, he promised he'd sue the mortgage company and wind up with large sums of money that he would share with the original deed holder, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

That's the scheme he used against the original owner of the house on Naomi Drive, deputies said. The Nestlerodes were victimized by the second part of Antonelli's plan, according to records.

Instead of suing the mortgage companies, Antonelli sold the foreclosed homes to unsuspecting buyers on Craigslist while pocketing thousands of dollars, authorities said.

The Nestlerodes signed the paperwork and gave Antonelli a check. They met him in a parking lot at the corner of U.S. 19 and State Road 50.

That's where Antonelli met all of his victims, detectives said.

June Nestlerode has suffered from migraines and panic attacks. Her asthma has come back with a vengeance, she said.

One night, she was suffering from such a severe panic episode, her husband, a former EMT, rushed her to the hospital thinking she was having a heart attack.

Now they're facing a $1,400 hospital bill.

Jerry, 72, and June Nestlerode, 64, are staying in the house they bought from Antonelli. The bank is working with them, but they still don't know whether they will be kicked out of the house — and if so, when.

Much of it also rides on whether Antonelli is convicted and goes to prison. He still has the deed to the house.

"We have nowhere else to go," said June Nestlerode. "This is it."

The house itself is not finished. The copper pipes had been stolen by a burglar, the couple said. There were holes in the wall when they moved in and the landscaping was a nightmare.

The couple spent a lot of money to fix up the home — and they would need to pay more to finish the job. They're not spending another cent on it or exerting any more sweat on repairs. They said they don't see the point if they're going to wind up on the street in the near future.

"I don't like living like this … in a dump," said Nestlerode.

Kimberly Polk, 43, contacted the couple soon after Antonelli was arrested. She said the same man took her and her father's money through a similar scheme. They lost $5,000.

Polk described Antonelli as a sweet talker — and he likes to lay it on thick.

"He told me he thought I had the most amazing blue eyes he'd ever seen," Polk said. "He told me he couldn't keep his eyes off of them."

She, along with the Nestlerodes, was livid over the fact he is out on bond. He has an arrest record — including a prior fraud charge — and they are convinced he's not going to stop scheming as long as he awaits trial.

"He's avoiding jail and he shouldn't," said Polk. "He's already getting special treatment. If you look at his history, he always gets his way — somehow, some way."

June Nestlerode was just as bitter. His bail was $32,000 and he posted it immediately after his latest arrest.

"I asked the (prosecutor), 'Why do you keep letting him out?' " she said. "He told me he's not being let out, he's bonding out … Well, he's bonding out with our money."

The Nestlerodes have been cheated in the past. They feel like magnets to deception. They have a bankruptcy on their record. They get Social Security and Jerry Nestlerode collects a small pension. When all those factors are considered, it could mean the bank won't be inclined to offer mercy for much longer.

They are aware of how gullible they have looked to the public. They feel angry and defeated. They've never been more skeptical about people.

"I don't know. I must have a big 'S' on my chest … an 'S' for sucker," June Nestlerode said.

The couple was once estranged and now they're back together. They say they're thankful each day of their reconciliation. The house on Naomi Drive was where they were going to spend the rest of their lives together.

"We were just trying to make things better for our future," said Jerry Nestlerode.

"I hope we'll be OK," he continued. "I am not at the point where I can buy any more houses." (352) 544-5283

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