LawFuel – US Legal Newswire
U.S. citizen orchestrated scam from east Asia, filed fraudulent
affidavits that kept Florida property off the open market ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – A U.S. citizen residing in Thailand who orchestrated an elaborate real estate scam that “clouded” property titles is permanently prohibited from continuing his deceptive dealing with Florida property owners, Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced.
After trial before Leon County Circuit Judge William L. Gary, the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division obtained a judgment against Todd Teal for filing fraudulent affidavits that prevented landowners from selling their property to anyone but him.
“The blatant manipulation of the real estate market was extremely harmful to the property owners in this case, and I am pleased the Court has taken the actions to prevent this individual from continuing his deceptive practices,” said Attorney General McCollum.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed in June 2005, alleged that Teal, 63, used a mail drop box in Marco Island as his “local” address and used the internet to identify land held in Florida, mostly by out-of-state owners. Testimony from victims and witnesses revealed that Teal used deceptive contracts to induce landowners to sell him their land. Teal then would refuse to make the deposit required by the contract but would hold the property under contract until he found a buyer to purchase it at a higher price. While he was searching for a buyer, he would file affidavits against the property title with public courts. The affidavits filed by Teal “clouded” the title to the property so that as long as the affidavits remained in the court clerk’s official records, the landowner did not have a clear title and was prevented from selling to any other buyers.
The testimony revealed that by clouding the property titles, Teal gave himself an unlimited amount of time to arrange for another purchaser to buy the property. If a property owner objected to Teal’s tactics, Teal threatened litigation. According to the trial testimony, Teal has bought and sold hundreds of properties, turning more than $2 million in profit.
Authorities believe the titles to more than 200 parcels of Florida land were illegally clouded by Teal’s actions. Owners also suffered damages from lost opportunities to sell their land as well as legal expenses incurred while trying to clear their titles. McCollum’s investigators discovered that Teal has operated similar scams in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.
Judge Gary ruled that Teal’s actions violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and also constituted the common law offense of slander of title. An order was entered blocking Teal from using deceptive measures to purchase Florida land and erasing the fraudulent affidavits from official county records. Damages and attorney fees and costs will be determined by the court at a later time.