Fla. Couple Sentenced for Rental Scams, More

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

And that may possibly be just the beginning of their legal difficulties.

Hialeah law enforcement detectives have now recognized at least 19 victims in a separate fraud. The pair preyed on desperate house hunters, thieving rental deposits for the identical Hialeah performance, cops say. They are going through dozens of new felony fees that could drastically strengthen the time they spend in jail.

The most current cases arrive as the expenditures of South Florida’s housing marketplace have skyrocketed to untenable degrees, pricing out the center course from purchases, spurring landlords to jack up rents by far more than 50% and sparking regional governments to contemplate principles to help struggling tenants. Miami is now the country’s least cost-effective housing industry.

On Tuesday, tenants associated with the Miami Personnel Heart system to protest outside the house Miami-Dade County Corridor, to urge commissioners to maximize protections for tenants reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and ballooning housing expenditures.

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

On Monday, Homestead police detectives introduced they’d arrested Priscilla Marie Contreras, 32, on allegations she posed as a real-estate agent and utilized Facebook Market to “rent” a residence and settle for deposits from unsuspecting would-be tenants – but the dwelling wasn’t essentially for rent. Two other people who posed as house 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 areas of Miami-Dade County, according to Homestead law enforcement.

“Detectives imagine that there is a solid probability that there are far more victims who have been preyed upon by these topics,” stated Homestead Police Capt. Fernando Morales.

Social media rental scams

In a assertion, Miami-Dade Condition Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle cautioned renters that rock-base rates advertised on the web can from time to time be far too fantastic to be legitimate.

“In our restricted rental sector, men and women desperate to uncover economical housing can be uncomplicated prey for rental scammers,” she explained. “These con artists will advertise a superior deal to attract their victims in, even giving receipts for any income provided. Unfortunately, when the fraud is detected and the scammer has your cash, that receipt may possibly show worthless.”

In a individual but identical circumstance, Rodriguez and Serna are in jail awaiting trial on accusations that they fleeced folks who thought they were being spending deposits for an performance at 20 W. 60th St., attached to the household wherever Rodriguez and Serna had been living.

In all, Hialeah police detectives have determined at minimum 19 victims. So significantly, Rodriguez has been charged in 18 individual scenarios, Serna in 16. Equally encounter charges these types of as grand theft and organized plan to defraud.

The victims all shared related stories: desperate for housing, they utilized Facebook Market to locate the effectiveness and fulfill with Rodriguez and Serna, who informed them an aged gentleman was still residing in the efficiency, but they could transfer in a single week later on. They paid deposits of $1,000 and had been even offered a paper receipt.

But Rodriguez and Serna hardly ever authorized the victims to move in and stopped returning calls. Sooner or later, in mid-December, a selection of them showed up to the efficiency demanding to transfer in or get their revenue back again – and they all recognized they’d been duped, in accordance to police reviews.

In December, the few was first charged with 8 situations, and the relaxation have been additional in current months. Rodriguez’s legal professional declined to remark. Serna’s lawyer did not return a ask for for remark.

Residence flipping scam

The two are again in jail just after a jury convicted them in a wholly unique rip-off.

The few was convicted of stealing almost $1.8 million from a family members that believed it was investing in a household-flipping enterprise. Rodriguez, a true estate agent, served broker the promotions and Serna, a handyman, was to renovate the residences for re-sale.

But 31 of the 32 properties they purported to have ordered weren’t even for sale, investigators say. At trial, prosecutors claimed the income they spent on own expenditures, including more than $220,000 at nearby casinos, cruises and visits to Disney Environment and Europe.

Rodriguez herself took the stand in the course of the December trial, suggesting the victims understood the documents she’d presented them were bogus – although at 1 position even complimenting condition prosecutors for the total of proof they’d amassed.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Circuit Decide Miguel de la O sentenced Rodriguez to 15 a long time in prison and 15 a long time probation, Serna to 14 in prison and 16 of probation. In the course of the listening to, the judge did not mince words and phrases.

“You are thieves. Some individuals rob with a gun, you robbed with your terms. You relied on your shared Cuban background and your presentation as a family members, and utilized [the victims’] have faith in in opposition to them,” de la O advised them. “There’s small change amongst what you did and if you experienced walked into a financial institution and handed a take note to the teller inquiring for 1.5 million bucks, except that you have affected the relaxation of their life and their children’s life.”

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