June and Robert Nestlerode didn't waste time moving into their new home off Naomi Drive.
They signed on the dotted line — after meeting the home seller in a parking lot off U.S. 19 — and wrote him a check for $7,300.
The next day they moved in belongings. Then they spent $3,000 on a new roof, bought homeowners insurance, purchased an air-conditioning unit, had landscaping done and installed a fence.
Unbeknownst to them, the house was in foreclosure. The man they purchased it from duped them — and duped the previous owner into thinking he was going to sue the mortgage company on her behalf and make her a large sum of money, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities in Hernando and Citrus counties said they have connected the devious home seller to three schemes — and they are still investigating to see whether others have been victimized.
Gaetano Antonelli, 62, was arrested on three counts of organized fraud. He was booked June 27 at the Hernando County Jail and released later that day after posting $17,300 bail.
The house Antonelli sold to the Nestlerodes was owned by Chauna Adorni, who was interviewed by economic crimes detectives, according to sheriff's office reports.
Adorni, who according to deputies had gone through difficulties in her personal life and could no longer make the payments on her home, saw an advertisement for mortgage rescue and called the listed number. Antonelli answered, deputies said.
Adorni agreed to meet Antonelli — in the same parking lot off U.S. 19 — and several documents were signed, according to sheriff's reports. Detectives said they acquired copies of the paperwork, including power of attorney, a warranty deed and a compliance agreement.
Adorni said Antonelli promised he would sue the mortgage company and get a large settlement.
"Chauna advised that (the suspect) never mentioned to her that he was going to sell the property to anybody else and advised that if she knew those were his intentions, that she would never have entered into any agreement with him," wrote Detective Dustin Mormando in his report.
Antonelli advertised the properties he acquired on Craigslist, deputies said.
During an interview with detectives last month, Antonelli told them "mortgages are not legally binding contracts" and referred to them as "scams backed by the federal government," said Denise Moloney, a spokeswoman with the sheriff's office.
In another scam, Antonelli tricked a couple into thinking he would sue the mortgage company on their behalf and then tried to sell the house to someone else, deputies said.
The man who bought the house gave Antonelli a $5,000 deposit. When he learned Antonelli wasn't legitimate, he tried to get the money back. But the suspect had already cashed the check and wouldn't answer phone calls or return messages, according to sheriff's office reports.
In another instance, Antonelli "pressured" a man who met with him after seeing an advertisement on Craigslist, deputies said. Zachary Folb, 25, met Antonelli at the usual place — a parking lot off U.S. 19 — and agreed to make a down payment of $5,000 because he feared losing out on the deal, according to reports.
The house was in Crystal River and Folb researched it before meeting Antonelli. He noticed it was listed under someone else's name. Antonelli warned him he could miss out on the low price and Folb relented, deputies said.
Folb, who lives in Orlando, returned home after meeting Antonelli and saw a duplicate ad on Craigslist. In the body of the second ad included a boastful message from Antonelli, deputies said.
The message read, "Sold A_H_ … HeHeHe … as is … didn't hurt me a bit … Don't let door hit you in the (expletive) on the way out … Great plan genious (sic)."
Folb contacted the sheriff's office and also filed a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, according to reports.