DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A Volusia County man accused of fraudulently taking ownership of two homes using fake deeds sought the services of multiple notaries as part of the scheme, newly released court records show.
Javon Walden, 36, is facing an organized scheme to defraud charge, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and has pleaded not guilty.
According to prosecutors, Walden used fraudulent quitclaim deeds to make it appear as though the original property owners had transferred ownership of the homes to him.
In both cases, the original property owners were dead at the time the deeds were notarized, court records show.
One of the notaries later told investigators she did not understand how a quitclaim deed worked. She certified the legal document despite the deceased property owner not being present for the signing, according to the court documents.
Another notary told investigators that, while meeting up with Walden and his associate for a deed signing, one of the men may have secretly used her notary rubber stamp seal without her knowledge after she refused to notarize a questionable quitclaim deed.
Prosecutors said Walden later sold one of the fraudulently obtained homes for $70,000. He was unable to profit off the second home because an heir to that property discovered the scheme and stopped it, court records show.
To combat property fraud, many Central Florida counties have established free alerts that notify citizens when an official record, such as a deed or mortgage, is documented under their name. Property fraud alerts are available in Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties.
Walden contacted notary after neighbor’s death to witness deed signing, records show
Days after authorities said Charles Gadson died by suicide in his Daytona Beach home in November 2020, the Volusia County Clerk of Court recorded a quitclaim deed indicating Gadson had transferred ownership of his property to Walden.
At the time of Gadson’s death, Walden was living with his grandmother at her home across the street from Gadson’s house.
Gadson’s family was reportedly unfamiliar with Walden, a convicted felon, until discovering he was the legal owner of their deceased relative’s home.
“No one in my family knows who Javon Renard Walden is,” said Gadson’s sister, Carolyn Shank. “I have no idea what his connections are to my brother.”
Shank believes her brother’s signature on the deed does not resemble Gadson’s signature on other documents like his driver’s license.
More significantly, Shank was troubled that the deed transferring Gadson’s property to Walden was notarized one week after her brother’s death.
“It’s impossible for him to come back from the dead to sign a deed in front of a notary,” Shank said.
Shank contacted News 6 in 2021 after authorities initially declined to prosecute Walden for forgery.
After News 6 uncovered additional information indicating Walden may have tried to take another family’s home using a questionable deed, the state attorney’s office reopened its investigation and later filed felony charges against Walden.
During its investigation, state attorney employees interviewed the notary whose name and stamp appear on the quitclaim deed transferring Gadson’s property to Walden.
Alfrenecia Perkins told state attorney investigators that Walden found an advertisement for her notary business on the internet.
“I’ve never seen (Walden) before,” Perkins said in a video interview that was provided to News 6 through a public records request.
Perkins told investigators much of the document Walden presented to her was blank and that Gadson’s signature was added to it after she notarized the document.
Perkins, who was commissioned as a notary public less than 18 months before meeting Walden, told investigators she was not familiar with quitclaim deeds at the time.
Under Florida law, the person transferring ownership of a property, known as a grantor, is required to sign a deed in the presence of a notary and two witnesses.
“I did not know that,” Perkins told investigators.
Instead, Perkins said she erroneously notarized the deed on behalf of Walden, who was considered the grantee.
During the interview, state attorney investigators stressed to Perkins that they considered her a witness and assured her that she was not the target of their investigation.
Gadson’s sister filed a complaint against Perkins with the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis last year.
The Executive Office of the Governor, which reviews misconduct allegations against notaries, did not respond to questions about the status of the complaint.
State records show Perkins’s commission as a notary is currently on “hold”.
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Perkins did not respond to a text message offering the opportunity to comment for this story and her voicemail was full. State attorney investigators had previously advised Perkins not to speak to journalists.
Five months after Walden appeared to take ownership of Gadson’s property, county records show he sold it for $70,000.
The buyer, Jeroen Reidel, told state attorney investigators he met Walden through a mutual acquaintance and was led to believe Walden had inherited the house from his late uncle.
Reidel, whose real estate investment company now holds the deed to Gadson’s former home and has been paying property taxes on it, is currently engaged in litigation with Gadson’s sister over ownership of the property.
Walden fraudulently took home of incarcerated friend, witnesses claim
Jeremy Hanger was locked up in the Volusia County jail awaiting trial for drug and firearm offenses when he learned about an unusual real estate transaction involving his childhood home, according to an interview with state attorney investigators.
“That was my grandfather’s house,” Hanger told investigators. “When he passed away, he left it to my mother.”
Following his mother’s death in April 2017, Hanger considered himself to be an heir to the Daytona Beach home even though the property remained in his late mother’s name.
While he was incarcerated, Hanger said his gave his cousin and some other acquaintances permission to live in the family home.
In February 2021, Walden filed court papers attempting to evict those tenants from the house.
Attached to the eviction paperwork was a copy of a quitclaim deed that suggested Hanger’s mother, Judith Hanger Swindle, had transferred ownership of the property to Walden.
The deed, which appeared to contain the signature of Hanger’s mother, indicated that it had been notarized in December 2020, nearly four years after her death.
Hanger told investigators he and Walden hung out together as children and assumed Walden knew of his mother’s death and his incarceration.
“(Walden) probably felt like maybe I had no means and no way to fight him for (the house),” Hanger said.
From his jail cell, Hanger hired an attorney who managed to stop the eviction process.
Investigators now suspect Walden may have been planning to sell Hanger’s family home once the tenants left, records show.
As part of their criminal investigation, authorities contacted the notary whose stamp and apparent signature were on the deed transferring the home from Hanger’s mother to Walden.
“I did not do this,” Lori Lawhorn, a notary, told investigators in a sworn interview while looking at a copy of the quitclaim deed.
Lawhorn said she met Walden and another unidentified man at a Daytona Beach gas station for a deed signing after Walden requested an appointment through her mobile notary business.
Suspicious that the deed was handwritten rather than typed, Lawhorn said she asked to speak on the phone with the attorney who Walden claimed had drafted the deed.
“Within two seconds I knew this was no attorney,” Lawhorn told investigators. “It was at that point this guy on the phone started cussing me out.”
Lawhorn said she refused to notarize the quitclaim deed.
“I looked at (Walden) and said, ‘There’s no signing happening tonight,’” Lawhorn told investigators.
Lawhorn claims her signature on the quitclaim deed was forged and believes Walden or his associate may have secretly used her official notary rubber stamp while they were parked at the gas station.
“My stuff was sitting on the back of my vehicle,” Lawhorn told investigators.
Walden pleads not guilty to organized fraud charge
Investigators attempted to interview Walden about the questionable deeds last year, but he failed to show up for the scheduled appointment, records show.
Months later, prosecutors charged Walden with organized scheme to defraud.
Walden entered a plea of not guilty on Dec. 29, court records show.
Walden’s attorney, Darryl Smith, has previously declined to comment about the ongoing case.
But in recent court records, Smith indicated that his client may be considering a plea deal.
“(The prosecution and defense) are both simultaneously working and negotiating to prepare this case for a possible plea resolution or trial if a resolution cannot be reached,” Smith wrote in a motion seeking to delay Walden’s trial, which was originally scheduled for last month.
A new trial date has not been set.