Fla. Couple Sentenced for Rental Scams, More

HIALEAH, Fla. – Two months just after Hialeah pair Vivian Rodriguez and Yovany Serna had been convicted of fleecing a relatives out of nearly $1.8 million in an expenditure rip-off, a Miami decide has sentenced them to 15 and 14 several years in jail, respectively.

And that may perhaps be just the commencing of their lawful problems.

Hialeah law enforcement detectives have now discovered at minimum 19 victims in a independent rip-off. The pair preyed on determined dwelling hunters, thieving rental deposits for the very same Hialeah efficiency, cops say. They are experiencing dozens of new felony rates that could appreciably enhance the time they shell out in jail.

The most current circumstances occur as the charges of South Florida’s housing market have skyrocketed to untenable degrees, pricing out the middle class from purchases, spurring landlords to jack up rents by far more than 50% and sparking neighborhood governments to consider rules to enable struggling tenants. Miami is now the country’s the very least inexpensive housing market place.

On Tuesday, tenants connected with the Miami Personnel Heart strategy to protest exterior Miami-Dade County Hall, to urge commissioners to boost protections for tenants reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and ballooning housing prices.

Against that backdrop, more and a lot more men and women are also falling victims to scammers who use social media to target dwelling hunters.

On Monday, Homestead law enforcement detectives introduced they’d arrested Priscilla Marie Contreras, 32, on allegations she posed as a serious-estate agent and applied Facebook Marketplace to “rent” a house and accept deposits from unsuspecting would-be tenants – but the property was not really for hire. Two some others who posed as owners, Yordani Carriles Diaz, 43, and Deinoser Bravo, 47, are on the lam, law enforcement say.

Investigators have documented at minimum 16 victims in Homestead and other components of Miami-Dade County, according to Homestead police.

“Detectives consider that there is a potent probability that there are a lot more victims who have been preyed on by these subjects,” claimed Homestead Police Capt. Fernando Morales.

Social media rental frauds

In a statement, Miami-Dade Point out Lawyer Katherine Fernandez Rundle cautioned renters that rock-base selling prices advertised on the world-wide-web can often be far too great to be real.

“In our restricted rental current market, people today determined to obtain affordable housing can be uncomplicated prey for rental scammers,” she mentioned. “These con artists will promote a very good offer to draw their victims in, even providing receipts for any dollars delivered. Sadly, when the fraud is detected and the scammer has your funds, that receipt may well verify worthless.”

In a individual but identical case, Rodriguez and Serna are in jail awaiting trial on accusations that they fleeced people who thought they had been spending deposits for an performance at 20 W. 60th St., attached to the property in which Rodriguez and Serna have been living.

In all, Hialeah police detectives have discovered at minimum 19 victims. So far, Rodriguez has been charged in 18 different scenarios, Serna in 16. Both equally face charges this sort of as grand theft and organized plan to defraud.

The victims all shared identical tales: desperate for housing, they made use of Fb Market to discover the performance and meet with Rodriguez and Serna, who explained to them an elderly male was however living in the performance, but they could transfer in one week later on. They paid deposits of $1,000 and were even specified a paper receipt.

But Rodriguez and Serna never permitted the victims to transfer in and stopped returning calls. Inevitably, in mid-December, a range of them confirmed up to the efficiency demanding to transfer in or get their funds back again – and they all realized they’d been duped, according to law enforcement experiences.

In December, the pair was to start with charged with 8 scenarios, and the relaxation have been included in current weeks. Rodriguez’s lawyer declined to comment. Serna’s law firm did not return a ask for for remark.

House flipping fraud

The two are back again in jail after a jury convicted them in a wholly distinct scam.

The few was convicted of stealing almost $1.8 million from a household that imagined it was investing in a property-flipping organization. Rodriguez, a true estate agent, served broker the deals and Serna, a handyman, was to renovate the properties for re-sale.

But 31 of the 32 properties they purported to have procured weren’t even for sale, investigators say. At demo, prosecutors reported the income they used on personalized costs, including above $220,000 at local casinos, cruises and excursions to Disney Earth and Europe.

Rodriguez herself took the stand during the December demo, suggesting the victims understood the documents she’d supplied them had been bogus – whilst at a person issue even complimenting condition prosecutors for the volume of evidence they’d amassed.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Circuit Choose Miguel de la O sentenced Rodriguez to 15 many years in jail and 15 several years probation, Serna to 14 in jail and 16 of probation. Throughout the listening to, the decide did not mince text.

“You are intruders. Some folks rob with a gun, you robbed with your terms. You relied on your shared Cuban background and your presentation as a household, and employed [the victims’] belief versus them,” de la O informed them. “There’s little change amongst what you did and if you had walked into a bank and handed a take note to the teller inquiring for 1.5 million bucks, except that you have influenced the rest of their lives and their children’s life.”

© 2022 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Information Agency, LLC.

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