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Firm may have sold land it didn't own

The Sheriff's Office is investigating complaints against a Miami develop ment company, which "has kind of disappeared."

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published October 27, 2006


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INVERNESS - The Citrus County Sheriff's Office is investigating complaints that a Miami developer forged deeds and illegally claimed ownership of millions of dollars worth of Citrus Springs property.

Sky Development Group has been buying and selling land in Citrus Springs since December 2004, according to property records.

But now investigators are combing through deeds recorded by the Citrus County Clerk to find out whether the company claimed - and sold - hundreds of lots it didn't own.

Sheriff's officials also have received complaints from two Citrus Springs property owners who contracted with Sky Development to build new homes. The property owners made down payments of $25,000, according to the Sheriff's Office, but construction crews never showed up to work on the properties.

The investigation comes on the heels of several high-profile mortgage foreclosure cases involving the company. Last month, Circuit Judge Carol Falvey ordered Citrus Development Venture LLC, a company partially owned by Sky Development, to pay $6.62-million to creditors. And last week, Naples developer CC Development filed a foreclosure suit alleging that Sky owes more than $350,000.

Sky Development Group representatives could not be reached for comment. A recorded message at Sky's Miami office said the company's voice mailbox was full.

Investigators also haven't been able to track down anyone from Sky Development, or the company's assets, sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said.

"The company has kind of disappeared," she said.

Sky Development's offices in Citrus Springs and Miami are empty, she said. In addition to its Citrus Springs properties, Tierney said, the developer owns land in South Florida, Texas, New York, Arkansas and abroad.

Tierney said sheriff's detectives began investigating Oct. 11, after an attorney contacted them about a fraudulent deed.

Since then, she said, others have come forward reporting problems with the developer. Detectives from the Miami Beach Police Department have also contacted Citrus officials, Tierney said, and Citrus detectives have called the FBI about the case.

"It's a very serious thing," said Port Charlotte attorney Michael A. McKinley, whose call sparked the Sheriff's Office investigation.

McKinley said he contacted detectives after discovering a deed filed earlier this month in which Sky Development claimed to have purchased 197 lots from his client, New Vista Properties, for only $10.

He also filed a notice of fraudulent deed in Citrus County's records.

New Vista Properties never sold the property to Sky, McKinley said. The lots, he said, are actually worth nearly $10-million.

Now New Vista Properties, a developer based in Miami Lakes, must wait to sell the property until attorneys clear problems with the titles, he said. That costs time and money, he said, but the implications are far greater.

"The real harm of this ... is that there are a lot of potential innocent victims out there who will be thinking they're getting a valuable lot in Citrus County who aren't getting anything," he said.

An attorney representing Igor Komsky of Sunny Isles Beach also has filed a notice of fraudulent deed in Citrus County records.

Neither Komsky nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

According to property records, since June 2005 Komsky has purchased 65 lots in Citrus Springs from Sky Development for $1.8-million.

A deed recorded in September says Komsky sold 50 lots back to Sky Development for $500,000.

That deed, according to a notice filed by attorney Jeffrey Feinberg, is fraudulent.

"The people who own lots in Citrus Springs really should check and make sure the deed is still in their name," Circuit Court Clerk Betty Strifler said Thursday.

To do that, Strifler said property owners should check the Clerk's Web site at www.clerk.citrus.fl.us and click on the "Official Records" option under the "Online Search" heading.

Strifler said her office can do nothing to investigate claims of real estate fraud or prevent people from filing fraudulent deeds. State statutes only allow clerks to record documents that are presented, she said.

Tierney said property owners who have determined that Sky Development has sold their lot should immediately contact detective Mike Kanter at 726-4488, ext. 224.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or (352) 860-7309.

 

[Last modified October 27, 2006, 09:12:55]


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