A 52-year-old California woman has been sentenced to jail for scamming several landlords out of tens of thousands of dollars.
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s office that handled the prosecution warned landlords that rental scams are on the rise due to the tightening rental market.
According to statements from the D.A.’s office, the tenant targeted higher-end rental properties advertised on Craigslist. She lied on her rental applications about her income and also denied her prior history of evictions. She paid her rent deposits with bad checks, then lived rent-free while evictions were pending.
When the tenant met with a property owner or manager, she presented herself as a well-dressed, successful real estate agent in need of a place to live. She convinced landlords to sign a lease on the spot, offering a check for first and last month’s rent. Before the unsuspecting landlord found out the check was bad, the tenant had already moved into the property.
At that point, the only recourse for the landlord was to file for an eviction, an action that typically takes 90 days, according to prosecutors. That delay gave the tenant a free place to live for the next three months.
Prosecutors say the tenant jumped from one rental property to another in various neighborhoods over a three-year period. Before she was caught, she had scammed several different landlords out of thousands of dollars in free rent, including a 70-year-old who relied on the rent as his monthly income.
After an investigation, the D.A. scored convictions for grand theft, elder financial fraud and passing bad checks.
A judge sentenced the tenant to serve four years and eight months for the crimes. She likely will serve two years and eight months in jail followed by sixteen months of mandatory supervision.
“We are all susceptible to a fine-tuned business approach, even if it’s based on falsehoods. In this case, the defendant scammed several real estate professionals,” prosecutor Kathy Wells said. “Carefully check all references before renting to anyone.”
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.