PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – On August 17, 2020, an identity and financial theft scheme took place at the Brown Boxer, a sports pub and grille on Clearwater Beach. It led to one of several acts of property fraud and burglary in Pinellas County allegedly perpetrated by Courtney Chloe Garrett, a 26-year-old Largo resident who has claimed she is not guilty and wants a trial by jury.
Kayla Hughes from Virginia was vacationing with a friend, seated at a table when Garrett and another female suspect stopped and asked if they could share the table. Hughes obliged. Shortly thereafter, Hughes left the table, leaving her wallet behind. Garrett stole Hughes’ wallet as her accomplice distracted Hughes’ friend. The two thieves then weaseled out of the restaurant before their victims realized what happened. Fortunately, Brown Boxer provided a video that proved the scheme occurred.
But other victims – mobile home and real estate buying prospects – were victimized through online sites, namely Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up, beginning this past Spring.
On September 1, Garrett used Hughes’ identity to attempt to collect $250,000 for an unoccupied house at 51 Verbena Street in Clearwater. The house is owned by an elderly woman living in New Jersey. The woman’s son tends to the house and told police that Garrett got away with a bed and dresser, which she claimed was being given to some of her employees, according to her home-buying victim’s daughter and son-in-law who live next door. Convincing the victim and relatives they could purchase the home because her grandmother wanted her to sell it, she posed as Kayla Hughes and proceeded to show a death certificate, passport, altered power of attorney, and altered trust documents. She then signed a sales agreement for $250,000. But the victim’s real estate attorney warned he suspected fraud. That ended Garrett’s scheme spree, but there were still more victims taken during the months prior.
In August, Garrett swindled $13,000 from another victim by fraudulently selling a mobile home in Highpoint Village Mobile Home Park. She collected cash for the sale and instructed the victim to fill out the application at the park office to receive the mobile home’s title. The victim contacted the defendant demanding her money back, but Garrett said, “I don’t do refunds. It’s not my problem.”
In June, Garrett stole Deborah Helmic’s title to a mobile home located on Seminole Boulevard in Sun Village Mobile Home Park. Helmic told authorities she left the trailer during COVID-19 but continued to own it. Garrett then swindled $9,999 from another victim, selling Helmic’s property as if it were her own. Helmic and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office of media relations could not be reached to discover how Garrett swiped her title.
Garrett was arrested October 16 for “Scheme to Defraud,” “Grand Theft,” “Burglary of Unoccupied Dwelling” and “Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information.” Her legal history includes numerous charges ranging from leaving the scene of an accident causing property damage, illegally subleasing a dilapidated unit as a rent-to-own opportunity, taking possession of U.S. mail, reckless driving reduced from a DUI, and eviction.
Allegedly Garrett owns or did own Kava Beach Tea Room promoted on Facebook. Several calls resulted in a pre-recorded call that messages were not being accepted.