Gainesville Apartment Scam
GAINESVILLE - It's just about the end of the month, a time many people are looking for a new place to live. However in one case, an unknown woman is suspected of scamming at least four different people out of thousands of dollars, after renting them all a property she didn't own.
A bogus "for rent" sign, fraudulent lease papers and fake receipts are all part of a Gainesville apartment scam that cost victims thousands of dollars. A posting online of a vacant apartment deceived people into handing their money to a con-artist. The woman went as far as breaking into and show-casing a home that wasn't hers, and she still hasn't gotten caught.
Jennifer Cowart a single mother with two kids was excited to put a total of $1200 down for her new apartment at Woodside Villas in Gainesville. The seller? A private owner by the name of "Shannon McCleary." Cowart got receipts for her payments and a new set of keys. While she thought everything was set to move in, it wasn't and that's because there was already another family living in it. "I am so upset, I just want her to get caught and get my money back," she said. "I thought I had a place but it turned out to be a scam," Cowart added.
The apartment wasn't being sold by "Shannon McCleary," but by Matchmaker Realty of Alachua County. If you take a closer look you can tell this door has been tampered with and that's exactly what the scammer did. The scammer broke into the property and changed the locks, tricking the victims. The scammer went as far as getting rid of the original sign and posting a new sign with her number on it.
Scott Arvin with Matchmaker Realty said, "Usually if the property is a lot lower than other properties in the neighborhood, and it's to good to be true... It usually is."
Art Forgey with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, said the woman hasn't been caught. "If you're going to use Craigslist, just be ready that it could be a scam... If you're going to meet with somebody to purchase something say an apartment, do it in a very public place... Maybe where there are cameras," Forgey said.
Cowart says it's a lesson she'll never forget. "I never will pass by no sign like that again... I'll just go to an office somewhere and apply for an apartment," Cowart said.
The scammer used both the Craigslist post and a fake sign to lure people in. As of now five victims have surfaced in this case, including Matchmaker Realty. If you have any information that may lead to an arrest, don't hesitate in calling the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.