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I got tricked by a rental scam in LA. What are my legal options?
January 30, 2012 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Okay, so it finally happened. I got hit by a rental scam in LA. Now what? More inside.

This is in Los Angeles.

I did a dumb thing: I rented a living room from a guy on Craigslist. Basically, he rented the apartment and then sublet all the rooms. It had all the trademarks of a shady scam, but I was desperate and he saw that.

What happened is this: I woke up on today, my birthday, and found an eviction notice on the door. The landlady was sympathetic but basically said "Hey, I got a business to run, I'm happy to give the lease to you, but you're out whatever money you've given him". I have 3 other roommates who are also all out money.

I went to work and did some deep Google action and contacted at least 4 other people he has done this to over the last 18 months or so. He is STILL posting on Craigslist. I chewed him out over the phone and he seemed cowed, but we'll see. So far I've also managed to find at least 8 properties where he's done this.

In the meantime, what are my legal options in LA? Even if I get my money back, I'd still like to make sure he's not doing this to someone else.
posted by GilloD to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If you know his name and where he can be found, call the police!
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, I don't have his home address, but he's still posting on Craigslist and I used a fake e-mail and got him to agree to another meet. He's not exactly careful. The guys at the corner coffee shop said he comes in pretty often, too.

He cashed my check- is there a way to get some info from that?
posted by GilloD at 2:27 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Call the non-emergency police line and ask, explaining what you know and what information about him you have.
posted by brainmouse at 2:31 PM on January 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't want to set myself up as expert; I'm not.

My thought was just that you have a lot of info about him, and you know he has committed and is continuing to commit crimes. Tell the police, they should know how to proceed from there. It might not be a 911 thing, but you can call non-emergency or drop by the station.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:31 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are you so sure you can be so easily evicted from the apartment?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:34 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are you so sure you can be so easily evicted from the apartment?

Because he is not being evicted. The scammer, who is the one actually the on the lease, is being evicted. The OP has been paying the scammer, but that money never makes its way to the landlord.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:38 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


You should definitely report this to the police. When I served on grand jury duty in New York, we had two cases that were similar Craigslist rental scams. From the evidence presented, the police used the email records and contact information the victims had to track down the scammer.
posted by Caz721 at 2:59 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, definitely call the cops. Give them all the information you have - they have professional, trained detectives, whose job it is to track down criminals given bits of information. Even if worst comes to worst and they don't/can't arrest him, he'll know that the police are breathing down his neck and that someone was on to his scam enough to get the law involved.

Scammers like this are counting on their victims not going to the police because they're ashamed at having been scammed and/or they think the police won't do anything.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:16 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do your homework (which it sounds like you're doing). Collect whatever info on him you can find. Contact the police.

Whatever you do, don't let him know you're going to the police.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:46 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, he can be traced via the check you wrote him.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:46 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because he is not being evicted. The scammer, who is the one actually the on the lease, is being evicted. The OP has been paying the scammer, but that money never makes its way to the landlord.

I'm not convinced this is enough to be evicted. The OP might want to connect with whatever local or state government organization overseas residential tenancy.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:25 PM on January 30, 2012


Keep in mind that an eviction notice is not removal from the premises. An eviction notice is required before the landlord can file a suit in housing/civil court to have someone removed. At the very least, if you can't work anything out with the landlord (and only do so with competent legal advice), the OP can play out the process as the landlord files, waits for a hearing, etc. It's unfair to the landlord, in a way, but it's something like receiving stolen property. You'd be entitled at least to a hearing, if you wanted one.

Naturally, without a lease or the landlord having any money, dragging it out won't mean being able to stay forever, but it could buy some time to find another place, if that's necessary. Even as a fraudulent sublet, the person occupying a property is considered a tenant and an equal party under the law.
TINLA. IANAL.

But anyway, the poster was asking about tracking down the scammer, not staying in the apartment.
posted by dhartung at 5:43 PM on January 30, 2012


Call the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, ASAP!
posted by resurrexit at 12:45 PM on January 31, 2012


The LA County DA's Office also has a CP division.
posted by resurrexit at 12:46 PM on January 31, 2012


Here's a checklist of what to do to pursue a real estate fraud issue through the proper authorities in LA County.
posted by resurrexit at 12:48 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


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