Feb. 26--PAHOKEE -- The more than 3,000-square-foot restaurant at 2812 Main Street in Pahokee is under new ownership, only the previous owner says he had no idea it changed hands.
Mohamed Chowdhury of Royal Palm Beach reported to law enforcement in November that his family restaurant, which was empty for years, had been taken over by someone else through a deed where Chowdhury's signature was forged.
Chowdhury said he learned of the alleged sale when he went to the restaurant to start setting it up for a new sandwich shop.
Palm Beach County records show Chowdhury's business, DMS of Palm Beach, bought the building in 2008 with more than $200,000 in cash and only a $75,000 loan. The company's registration with the state has lapsed and Chowdhury said a pizza restaurant the family had in the building closed during the recession.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's office investigated. Deputies were told by the new owner, Emilio Perez, of Pahokee, that he bought the property for $10,000 from someone whose name he didn't know, and that despite Chowdhury's signature being on the notarized deed transfer, Chowdhury was not present when it was signed.
According to a sheriff's office offense report, Perez never produced proof of the $10,000 check he said he wrote to pay for the building, the notary who notarized the deed said she keeps no logs of her transactions and didn't recognize pictures of either Chowdhury or Perez, a check of Chowdhury's driver's license confirmed the signature on the deed was different, and that Chowdhury's name is misspelled in the signature on the deed.
"In speaking with Perez he admits that Chowdhury is not the person who signed the quit claim deed, but had no definitive information on who the person was that signed the quit claim deed," the investigator wrote in the report. "Furthermore, there is no information on who submitted the quit cliam deed to the clerk of courts office to be recorded."
As with most of these kinds of cases, it was deemed a civil matter and Chowdhury was told to get an attorney. The investigation was moved to inactive status.
"I'm in no position right now to pay $5,000 to hire an attorney and that would just be the start, I was told," Chowdhury said. "I sat down with the FBI last week and they said they are interested."
In January, a real estate scam was broken up in Palm Beach County where Robert A. Tribble Jr. allegedly filed bogus deeds that showed him as the owner of homes from Stuart to Miami.
Among other tricks, Tribble allegedly forged notaries' signatures, a tactic that made documents appear legitimate when they arrived at county clerks' offices, police say.
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