Family who owns home with sinkhole damage reacts to arrests of former homeowners, real estate agents

SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s an unusual case of real estate deception.

Karen Sherwin & Shawn Poole

Victoria Cooper says she was shocked this week when her real estate agent was arrested, along with the couple who sold her family their home. The seller’s agent was also arrested.

“It was all about money,” Cooper said.

The Coopers turned to 8 On Your Side two years ago when they realized the Spring Hill home they bought had potentially dangerous sinkhole activity on the property.

We found that the sellers received an insurance settlement for $155,000 to repair the home. Instead, they sold the house to the Coopers.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement allege that both real estate agents knew about the sinkhole activity and conspired to keep that information from the Coopers.

“It makes you feel stupid because usually I do my homework, but I didn’t see anything wrong,” Cooper said. “There was so many people involved.”

Arrested Thursday were the sellers, Clarence and Mary Surrena, of Seminole County, and real estate agents, Shawn Poole, of Spring Hill, and Karen Sherwin, of Port Richey.

They were charged with organized scheme to defraud relating to the sale of a home with sinkhole property damage.

During the investigation, agents found that Clarence and Mary Surrena sold their home at 18735 Bonnie Drive, Spring Hill, in Pasco County, to a couple for $275,000.

The Surrenas did acknowledge filing a sinkhole claim; however, they did not reveal the claim was paid. Although the Surrenas received $155,000 in October 2013 to fix the sinkhole, the money was not used for that purpose, FDLE said.

Sherwin, the Surrenas’ realtor, and Shawn Poole, the buyers’ agent, were aware of the insurance claim and the incomplete Seller’s Disclosure Form.

The buyers only became aware of the sinkhole after moving into their home when a representative of a home insurance company called to say the home could not be insured. The buyers believed they were insured at closing.

Clarence and Mary Surrena were both taken to the Seminole County Jail on $15,000 bond each. Karen Sherwin and Shawn Poole were both taken to the Pasco County Jail on $5,000 bond each.

The Coopers still live in the house and fear the worst could happen.

“When we see news reports of homes falling into sinkholes, we are terrified,” Victoria Cooper said.

But leaving right now is not an option. The Coopers are a family of eight and don’t have the money to buy another house without selling this one.

“We can’t sell the house,” she said. “No one would want to to buy it, and it’s worthless right now.”

Repair estimates show there is about $300,000 in work needed to stabilize the home.

This case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, 6th Judicial Circuit.

Meanwhile, FDLE says there could be more arrests.

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