Fake rental apartment scams have been plaguing New Yorkers since the dawn of time, and today the Manhattan District Attorney's office indicted two men for allegedly scamming prospective renters out of $60,000.
According to a release from the DA's office, Matthew Wada, 36, and Jennifer York, 27, defrauded more than 20 individuals from October 2013 to March of this year. The duo would allegedly temporarily rent apartments in Manhattan via websites like Craigslist and NYHabitat.com, then re-advertise them as long-term rentals, also online.
Prosecutors say Wada and York, using aliases, would then show prospective renters the apartments, with Wada posing as the buildings' landlord; once the victims agreed to sign a lease, Wada and York would allegedly shake them down for varying amounts of rent and security deposits. And when the victims showed up to move in, they'd find they'd fallen for a scam, with the defendants long gone.
The DA's office says victims lost amounts varying from $150 to $4,500, and that Wada and York racked up about $60,000 in the scheme. The defendants are accused of advertising apartments in Midtown, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and the East Village.
"Prospective renters lost thousands of dollars in this alleged scheme, which left several of them temporarily homeless,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. “Many of the victims were young, first-time New Yorkers who believed they had signed a legitimate lease only to find out when attempting to move in that their new apartment was already occupied."
Wada and York are charged with scheme to defraud in the first degree and grand larceny in the fourth degree; York is also charged with grand larceny in the 3rd degree. And prosecutors are warning renters to watch out for rental scams, since they're a dime a dozen in this city; the Federal Trade Commission has some helpful tips on their website.