Crime

Florida Couple Found Guilty Of Fraud After Knowingly Selling Family A House With A Giant Sinkhole

| by Meg O'Connor
Florida Sinkhole.Florida Sinkhole.

A federal jury found a Florida couple guilty of wire fraud after they sold their house to a family with five children and deliberately hid the fact that there was a giant sinkhole beneath the house.

Glenn and Kathryn Jasen, who will be sentenced in January, could face up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors are also seeking financial restitution for the family that is now stuck with a dangerous home.

WFLA first exposed the story in fall 2014, when the new buyers, Kelly Magbee and Thomas Jaje, discovered the sinkhole, causing them to lose their homeowner's insurance. 

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In its expose, WFLA revealed the Jasens had cashed in on an hefty insurance settlement of $153,000. Instead of fixing the sinkhole, the couple opted to take the money and sell the house for $60,000 to unsuspecting buyers. 

Just a few weeks after Magbee and Jaje moved into their new home with their five children, Citizens Property Insurance dropped the family's insurance coverage, which put them at risk of foreclosure. 

Not long after, Citizens Property Insurance realized it had already paid a significant sum to the previous homeowners to fix the sinkhole claim.

The insurance company's engineering report on the home revealed there was a 21-foot drop — which ended up being right under Magbee and Jaje's 1-year-old son's bedroom.

Federal prosecutors and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating the matter.

During the federal jury trial, which began on Oct. 5, Kathryn was asked why she and her husband failed to fix the house. She claimed they had done cosmetic repairs, such as landscaping and putting in a new carpet, on the home, and that someone at the insurance company had told her that the house was safe to stay in.

"The defendants put lipstick on a pig and sold it to suckers,” U.S. Attorney Tom Palermo told the jury. 

The jury took less than two hours to turn in a guilty verdict for the couple.

Jaje and Magbee told WFLA they were thrilled with the outcome of the trial and happy that it was over, as they have had to continue making mortgage payments on the unlivable sinkhole house while also paying to rent another house. When a large crack appeared on the living room floor, the family decided they needed to move out.

"We just want to get on with our lives and out of that house," Jaje told WFLA.

Sources: Daily Mail, WFLA / Photo credit: WFLA