Police say man advertising rentals for homes he doesn't own

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 10:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 8 at 10:20 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Police Department is looking for an alleged con artist who detectives say is preying on renters across the city.

Police say nearly a dozen victims have been tricked into renting homes that turn out to actually be for sale.

"It's a big, nice yard for my two sons to play," Ashley McFarland said while touring the property with Eyewitness News and pointing out one of the perks of her dream rental.

She spotted a sign advertising the three-bedroom, two-bath property in Gentilly and called the number. She was told it was $850 per month.

"It was his grandmother's house. That's what he told me, and they had it up for rent," said McFarland, who made two trips to check out the house in the 5700 block of Wingate Drive.

She was thrilled to move her 4-year-old and 8-year-old sons to the new neighborhood from New Orleans East.

The 24-year-old said after handing over a $400 deposit to the man claiming to be her future landlord, his excuses stopped her from signing the lease and getting keys.

Soon, McFarland's phone calls and texts stopped being returned. She passed by the house again only to suddenly discover a "for sale" sign.

The listing agent for the Gentilly property tells Eyewitness News the for sale sign was removed by an unknown person and discovered at another property.

"He made me feel so comfortable to the point that I'm believing everything he's saying," said McFarland.

Turns out Ashley isn't the only one being duped. The NOPD says it believes 23-year-old Jerome White is the man behind a string of rental scams.

Detectives say several victims picked him in a suspect line-up.

"We have at least seven victims so far that we've identified. I'm pretty sure once we out him a few more will come up," said NOPD 7th District Detective Augustine Yates.

Police say White also pretended to rent out a home in the 6200 block of Morrison Road. According to the NOPD, four victims showed up at the same time, realized they were being scammed and then called authorities.

"He has refined his techniques now. He has added two or three other houses and it's pretty much the same scam," Yates said.

Police say an arrest warrant has been issued for White's arrest.

"That's very typical. Con artists are very likable people. That's how they can get away with all of this. They're very personable and they always have a great story," said Cynthia Albert with the Better Business Bureau.

The non-profit says local renters continue to get burned using rental websites like Craigslist and now this latest scheme.

Albert said the best way to protect yourself is to do your homework like researching the address online or calling the rental company/agency directly.

"You wanna do your research beforehand, because if you wait until later, you're going to lose your money," said Albert.

The NOPD believes White has taken deposits ranging from a few hundred dollars to $1200 from one victim.

If you have any information on his whereabouts call Crimestoppers at 822-1111.

 

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