Scammers Made $60K Taking Rental Deposits For Other People’s Apartments

There is a longstanding, if sketchy, tradition in New York City of people signing a lease on an apartment with the sole intent of subletting it for a profit. But where that crosses the line from sketchy to just plain evil is when you’re merely using someone else’s home as a showcase to rack up thousands of dollars in ill-gotten deposits from hopeful tenants.

Prosecutors in NYC have accused one pair of scammers of bilking a total of $60,000 from 20 people — all in just a four-month time period.

The suspects would pay for short-term rentals in prime Manhattan neighborhoods and then re-list those same apartments, posing as the rightful landlord. Potential tenants would come by to check out the places and then leave deposits ranging from $150 to $4,500, reports the NY Post, but since the scammers only had these bait apartments for short periods of time, by the time the new tenants showed up, the predators had disappeared, replaced by the actual owners.

“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,” explained Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who said that the victims had not only thrown away money on the bogus rental, but often were left without a place to live.

The scammers were eventually caught and were indicted earlier this week on charges, including scheming to defraud and grand larceny, to which they have both entered “not guilty” pleas.