Renters, beware: Alleged scammers are afoot in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. A woman who was displaced by the storm discovered that she might have been hoodwinked by a 46-year-old Brick man who posed as the owner of a rental property. The man was charged with theft by deception in connection with the incident, which happened in late December. He is mounting a criminal defense against the charges, though he has more than $7,000 in outstanding warrants from other counties in the region.
Authorities report that the man met the potential renter at a Staples store on Route 70 in Brick, claiming that he could not meet her at the house at that time. He reportedly told the woman that the house was unlocked, however, and she was welcome to tour it at her leisure. The man is accused of taking more than $2,000 from the woman, accepting a falsified lease agreement and handing her keys to the home that did not work.
The listing for the rental, which had appeared on Craigslist, appears to have been legitimate. The man who allegedly posed as the poster, however, did not own the rental property or have access to the facility. Authorities report that the woman's daughter became suspicious and took a picture of the man with her phone. They tracked the man using his slate of outstanding warrants.
The man was charged on Jan. 2, but he was released after making bail on the warrants. He will face a future court date for further proceedings, according to local media reports. Authorities say that potential renters should be aware that alleged scams have been occurring throughout the area, targeting Hurricane Sandy victims.
If the man chooses to plead guilty in connection with the case, he may be able to have his sentence and charges reduced by prosecutors. This may not be possible, though, considering his extensive criminal history. Media reports have not indicated the nature of the existing warrants against the man.
Source: The Star-Ledger, "Toms River man allegedly posed as landlord, stole security deposit from woman displaced by Sandy," Seth Augenstein, Jan. 4, 2013.