Landlord scam cons thousands from tenants

May 3, 2011 9:20:00 PM PDT
Somebody is operating a scam in South Philadelphia and stealing thousands of dollars from unsuspecting tenants-to-be.

It began with a flyer.

The flyer posted at Broad and Snyder advertised 1825 Yewdall was for rent.

"It was perfect. Right up my alley. Right money range, like, I saved just enough from my paycheck," the victim tells Action News.

A man claimed he was Michael Gardner and he ran Sun Realty.

He said he owned properties like Yewdall all over the city.

The victim forked over $2,100 cash. She got a lease and a set of keys, but the day before she was to move in, she also got a call.

"[I was told] you can't move in here, this was the 30th, he notified me that I couldn't move in there because of lead," the victim said.

The victim, a mother of three, decided to go to the property anyhow.

"I went to the home anyway because I wanted to try the key, something told me to try the key and it wouldn't work," the victim said.

Not only that, but a few minutes later, a young woman walked up with her belongings in tow.

"Her mother was like 'are you the next door neighbor?' I said, 'no, I'm supposed to be living in this house.' She said, 'That's funny, my daughter is supposed to be living here, too,'" the victim said.

"It's clearly a scam, we believe this gentleman is operating under the name Sun Realty, he goes by the name Michael or Sean," Lt. John Walker of the Philadelphia Police Department said.

But that's all police know at this point.

They suspect the con artist knew the place was for rent, broke in, changed the locks, and began trying to scam people for cash.

However, now police are not the only ones on the case.

Early Monday morning, shortly after the women went to police, a fire broke out in the home and now arson investigators would like to talk to whoever is responsible for the fraud.

It is a fraud that has left the victim with little money and no place to live.

"I'm living with a friend, just trying to save up again. I don't know if I'm going to be able to make that same amount as quickly as I did," the victim said.

The property is actually run by a reputable management company, Abbolene and Scullin. However, the company only learned about the fraud after being notified by a lawyer for one of the girls.

This reveals just how quickly these scams can materialize.