Fla. Couple Sentenced for Rental Scams, More

HIALEAH, Fla. – Two months soon after Hialeah pair Vivian Rodriguez and Yovany Serna were convicted of fleecing a family out of almost $1.8 million in an investment rip-off, a Miami decide has sentenced them to 15 and 14 years in jail, respectively.

And that may be just the commencing of their lawful complications.

Hialeah law enforcement detectives have now determined at minimum 19 victims in a independent rip-off. The pair preyed on determined house hunters, stealing rental deposits for the very same Hialeah effectiveness, cops say. They are facing dozens of new felony costs that could appreciably boost the time they expend in prison.

The latest circumstances arrive as the charges of South Florida’s housing industry have skyrocketed to untenable stages, pricing out the center class from buys, spurring landlords to jack up rents by extra than 50% and sparking area governments to contemplate rules to assistance having difficulties tenants. Miami is now the country’s minimum reasonably priced housing sector.

On Tuesday, tenants connected with the Miami Personnel Centre system to protest outdoors Miami-Dade County Corridor, to urge commissioners to increase protections for tenants reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and ballooning housing prices.

In opposition to that backdrop, extra and far more persons are also slipping victims to scammers who use social media to target house hunters.

On Monday, Homestead police detectives introduced they’d arrested Priscilla Marie Contreras, 32, on allegations she posed as a genuine-estate agent and utilised Fb Marketplace to “rent” a dwelling and settle for deposits from unsuspecting would-be tenants – but the dwelling was not really for hire. Two others who posed as home owners, Yordani Carriles Diaz, 43, and Deinoser Bravo, 47, are on the lam, police say.

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Investigators have documented at the very least 16 victims in Homestead and other parts of Miami-Dade County, in accordance to Homestead police.

“Detectives believe that there is a robust risk that there are much more victims who have been preyed upon by these topics,” reported Homestead Police Capt. Fernando Morales.

Social media rental frauds

In a statement, Miami-Dade Condition Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle cautioned renters that rock-base price ranges advertised on the world-wide-web can at times be too excellent to be legitimate.

“In our tight rental sector, men and women determined to find very affordable housing can be uncomplicated prey for rental scammers,” she said. “These con artists will publicize a great offer to draw their victims in, even giving receipts for any money delivered. Sadly, when the scam is detected and the scammer has your income, that receipt may demonstrate worthless.”

In a individual but similar scenario, Rodriguez and Serna are in jail awaiting trial on accusations that they fleeced individuals who thought they ended up having to pay deposits for an efficiency at 20 W. 60th St., connected to the residence where by Rodriguez and Serna ended up residing.

In all, Hialeah police detectives have discovered at least 19 victims. So much, Rodriguez has been charged in 18 independent circumstances, Serna in 16. Each confront costs these kinds of as grand theft and organized plan to defraud.

The victims all shared identical tales: desperate for housing, they made use of Facebook Market to come across the effectiveness and fulfill with Rodriguez and Serna, who told them an elderly guy was even now residing in the performance, but they could shift in 1 week later. They paid deposits of $1,000 and had been even given a paper receipt.

But Rodriguez and Serna never ever authorized the victims to go in and stopped returning calls. Finally, in mid-December, a number of them showed up to the performance demanding to transfer in or get their funds back – and they all recognized they’d been duped, in accordance to police stories.

In December, the few was first charged with eight instances, and the relaxation have been added in latest weeks. Rodriguez’s attorney declined to comment. Serna’s lawyer did not return a ask for for remark.

Home flipping fraud

The two are back again in jail right after a jury convicted them in a wholly diverse scam.

The pair was convicted of stealing virtually $1.8 million from a household that imagined it was investing in a dwelling-flipping company. Rodriguez, a actual estate agent, aided broker the discounts and Serna, a handyman, was to renovate the residences for re-sale.

But 31 of the 32 properties they purported to have acquired weren’t even for sale, investigators say. At trial, prosecutors said the income they used on personal fees, together with about $220,000 at area casinos, cruises and visits to Disney World and Europe.

Rodriguez herself took the stand for the duration of the December trial, suggesting the victims understood the documents she’d specified them were being bogus – although at a person place even complimenting condition prosecutors for the quantity of proof they’d amassed.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Miguel de la O sentenced Rodriguez to 15 yrs in prison and 15 many years probation, Serna to 14 in jail and 16 of probation. All through the listening to, the decide did not mince terms.

“You are robbers. Some folks rob with a gun, you robbed with your terms. You relied on your shared Cuban background and your presentation as a relatives, and utilized [the victims’] have faith in from them,” de la O instructed them. “There’s little change in between what you did and if you experienced walked into a financial institution and handed a note to the teller inquiring for 1.5 million pounds, except that you have affected the rest of their life and their children’s life.”

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