Christopher and Kristie Jernigan thought they found the perfect home in Brooksville. They agreed to pay $229,000. Then, sinkhole.
But the sellers, retired Brooksville police officer Rick Shew and his wife, Frances, kept a big secret. They had already collected $240,000 in an insurance settlement for sinkhole activity underneath the house. Nothing about sinkhole issues was disclosed, as required by state law.
“It’s obviously something you should disclose, a big hole underneath your house. It doesn’t really slip your mind,” Shew said.
The Jernigans found out about the sinkhole claim through the rumor mill and dug through court records to discover the big settlement. The Hernando County Sheriff’s office arrested the Shews in October and charged them with mortgage fraud. But the case was mysteriously dropped after the State Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute.
According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the Shews were awarded $240,000 on August 16, 2010 in in a settlement with Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Company. No sinkhole remediation reports are on file with the Hernando County Clerk. The Shews signed a contract to sell the home to the Jernigans in June 2015 and did not disclose anything about the sinkhole.Christopher Jernigan said the former officer mentioned only a faulty light that needed repair. The Shews asked for $250,000, the full market value for the home – if it did not have sinkhole damage. The Jernigans agreed to pay $229,000.
Now, the Jernigans are bitter they were nearly deceived. They’re upset the criminal case is stalled. The Shews are not off the hook yet, though, as the sheriff’s office has forwarded the case to the U.S. Attorneys Office in Tampa for review. Meanwhile, the Jernigans are thankful they figured out the truth before they paid the price.
“Someone tried to deceive me,” Christopher Jernigan said. “And if I did nothing, somebody else in the city of Brooksville would be deceived.”
Watch WFLA’s report below.