NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man and woman were charged Tuesday with running a scam in which prospective apartment renters were allegedly conned out of some $60,000.
Matthew Wada, 36, and Jennifer York, 27, were charged with a scheme to defraud and grand larceny in the alleged scheme, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said the alleged scammers advertised apartments they had no authority to rent out and took money from victims, many of whom were moving to New York City for the first time.
“Prospective renters lost thousands of dollars in this alleged scheme, which left several of them temporarily homeless,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a news release. “Many of the victims were young, first-time New Yorkers who believed they had signed a legitimate lease only to find out when attempting to move in that their new apartment was already occupied.”
Prosecutors claimed Wada and York got temporary access to assorted apartments by renting them for short-term stays or vacations via Craigslist and NYHabitat.com. The apartments were largely in pricey areas of Manhattan – including Midtown, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and the East Village, prosecutors said.
Once the defendants got into the apartments, they allegedly advertised them for rent on an assortment of websites, including Craigslist and Bazarynka.com – a site serving the city’s Polish community, prosecutors said.
Those who responded were shown the apartments while Wada allegedly posed as the landlord, prosecutors said. The victims went on to sign long-term leases with future start dates, and give the alleged scammers rent and security deposits upfront, prosecutors said.
The victims lost between $150 and $4,500, with an average loss of around $2,200, prosecutors said. In many instances, multiple victims signed bogus leases for the same apartment, the release said.
When the victims returned to move in, they each found someone was already living in the apartment, and learned that Wada and York had never had the right to lease it in the first place. Wada and York, both of whom used various assumed names, disappeared, the release said.
In an unrelated case last year, another defendant, Michael Tammaro, was sentenced to a term of three to nine years in prison for allegedly stealing nearly $200,000 from at least 40 victims in a similar scam, the release said.
Tammaro pleaded guilty to posting photos of his own apartment on West 20th Street in Chelsea on Craigslist and claiming it was for rent, and getting multiple prospective tenants to send money for a security deposit and first month’s rent, prosecutors said.
Tammaro’s scam unraveled when several defendants tried to move in on the same day, prosecutors said.
Police also announced just this past Friday that they were searching for another man running a similar scheme on the Lower East Side. Police said that suspect met a 36-year-old prospective tenant in an apartment at 136 Ludlow St. and took $4,400 from the victim – even though the suspect had no authority to rent it out.
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