Friday, July 13, 2012

SW Florida Cops Focus Heat On Scams Using Vacant F'closures To Peddle Bogus Rentals To Unwitting Tenants; Tips Sought From Public In Crackdown Effort

In Collier Coumty, Florida, WINK News reports:

  • Collier County Sheriff's Office's Organized Crime Bureau is investigating a rental scam ring, focusing on foreclosures. 21-year-old Yoandry Leiva was first arrested in April for allegedly breaking into a foreclosure, and renting it out to an unsuspecting tenant. Now, detectives say they've connected him to over a dozen more fraudulent rentals.

    Collier County detectives say Leiva acted as a middle-man to link tenants to foreclosed properties. He's accused of breaking into abandoned homes and listing himself as the landlord.

    "They were posting ads advertising homes for rent. When unsuspecting people called, thinking it was a legitimate ad, he would meet with these people," CCSO Detective David Spahl said Wednesday.

    Detectives say Emanoel Thermitus was one of Leiva's first victims. WINK News spoke to her in April, after deputies evicted the single-mom one week after she moved in. She was out thousands of dollars and left homeless. "It's a lot of money for me because I'm by myself and I've been by myself forever," Thermitus said back in April.

    Now, detectives say they've located more fraudulently-rented out foreclosures, linked back to Leiva. The majority of the properties are in East Naples. Tammy Daffron had no idea her home was being rented out. "I think he's trying to make money, just like we all are. Unfortunately, he's not doing it the right way, like 99% of us do," Daffron said Wednesday.

    Detectives suspect Leiva likely worked in a ring. They're now alerting anyone with a foreclosure to keep a protective eye on the property. "I don't think this is the only group that's doing it. We don't have direct evidence at this point but it would be reasonable to believe that this isn't the only person doing it," Spahl said.

    CCSO is still investigating the crime and looking for more leads on fraudulently rented out foreclosures. If you have any information, you're asked to call Collier County Sheriff's Office at 239-774-4434. You can also leave an anonymous tip with Southwest Florida CrimeStoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.

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