NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - A Navy veteran in Pasco County was scammed out of $100,000 when he thought he was purchasing his dream home.
Leonard Lamm, 56, was awarded 100-percent disability and a check for nearly $300,000 in February for his military service from 1978 to 1984.
"I was U.S. Navy, two tours, honorable discharge and discharged with medical," said Lamm.
He said the check was a huge relief for him, his wife and four children after years of struggling financially.
"I bought my kids ATVs I'd promised them for 10 years. We'd been hand-to-mouthing it, in and out of woods, tents, you name it," said Lamm.
The biggest plan he made for his new-found fortune was to buy a home for his family since they're currently renting a house in New Port Richey. Lamm spotted a sale sign in the yard of a home at 13016 Hicks Road in Hudson. He described the property as the house of his dreams.
After knocking on the door, he said he talked to the owner for a while. The man told Lamm he was also a veteran.
"He gave me a tour of the house, and I offered him $250,000. I said I've got a $100,000 cash I can give you now," explained Lamm.
The pair went straight to the bank. Lamm got a cashier's check for $80,000. Two days later, the homeowner called him to say his attorneys in Tampa were drawing up a contract for the sale, but he would need the other $20,000, the second portion of Lamm's $100,000 down payment. Lamm paid him with another cashier's check.
He got suspicious weeks later when he took his family to tour the house.
"A gentleman comes out and says, 'What are doing on the property?' I said we just bought it. He said, "No, you didn't.'"
The realtor told Lamm an Army veteran had recently purchased the home. When Lamm called the owner, the man told him it was a mistake, and that he accidentally told his realtor Lamm was in the Army, not the Navy. He told Lamm he would see him in two weeks to sign paperwork, but the man never contacted him again.
"I had money, thought I was going to get a house. I got nothing. I'm broke. I've got $2 in the bank account," said Lamm.
A realtor confirmed that the property was sold to another buyer before the former owner left the country. Realtor Brenna Eddins, with Century 21 in Wesley Chapel, said no buyer should ever make the same mistake.
"If you are doing a transaction with that kind of money, the first thing you would want is some sort of contract. The contract should stipulate all of the details of what you are purchasing," said Eddins.
She added that it is essential for future buyers to do thorough research online.
"Anything that is represented by a real estate agent in the state of Florida is listed through the Florida Multiple Listing Service. Many times, people who are selling as 'For Sale by Owner,' will list it on some of the larger websites, like Trulia, Zillow or Realtor.com," explained Eddins.
Lamm is working with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office to track down the former homeowner.