2 arrested for orchestrating multiple rental scams in Victoria, more victims wanted

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Victoria Police are asking more victims to come forward after arresting two people for allegedly orchestrating sophisticated rental scams that cost at least 10 people thousands of dollars.

According to the Victoria Police Department, the fraud involves online advertisements for rental suites and is primarily carried out via email and text, often taking place over a period of weeks or months.

It also involves suspects meeting victims, calling victims’ references and handing over fraudulent key fobs, which VicPD described as unusual and brazen.

In one case reported to VicPD on June 24, the victim said they responded to a Craigslist rental ad on March 28 and met with who they believed to be the owner of a suite in a multi-unit residential property in 1600 -block of Quadra Street.

Police say the suspect then called the victim’s references and had the victim sign what appeared to be a valid lease with May 15 listed as the move-in date and had the victim wire funds for both a security deposit and first month’s rent .

At some point before the original move-in date, the suspect contacted the victim and told them that the move-in date would be delayed by a month because there had been a flood in the unit, but provided the victim with a key fob that they said would “take a few days” to activate.

When the victim went to the building, they discovered that the fob was not working and that the suite they had been shown was actually a short-term vacation rental occupied by another tenant.

At least nine similar cases of rental fraud are under investigation and Victoria Police believe there are many more.

In another scam, the victim answered a rental ad for a space in a multi-unit residential building in the 800 block of Yates Street, according to VicPD.

As was the case in the other scams, the suspect met with the victim, showed them the unit, called the victim’s references and had them sign what appeared to be a valid lease and had the victim wire money to a deposit to secure unit.

However, the victim became suspicious and contacted the building’s property manager, who said the suite was not for rent.

Victoria Police say the building manager went a step further by finding the rental property online and arranging a meeting with the suspect. When the building manager met with the suspect, they realized a rental scam was taking place and confronted the suspect.

“In an effort to help the victim get their money back, put the victim on speakerphone to arrange for a refund and record the meeting. While the suspect agreed to return the money before leaving the unit, no returns have been made any money to the victim, VicPD says in a press release.

During the confrontation, the building manager was able to capture a photo of the suspect, who is believed to be involved in at least nine other similar rental scams.

SUSPECTS ARE ARRESTED

Victoria Police arrested a male suspect on September 2 and a second suspect on September 19.

The second suspect, a man, was wanted on a warrant for violating conditions related to a previous string of frauds, where he faced 36 different fraud-related charges. He has since been released on a number of conditions, according to Victoria Police.

“Given the man’s extensive history of fraud charges and convictions and the number of victims in the current string of frauds officers are investigating, investigators are concerned there may be more victims,” ​​the release said.

VicPD is now asking anyone who may have been a victim of similar rental scams to contact them. They’re also asking anyone who recognizes a 5-foot-8 Caucasian man with dark brown stubble-length hair who was wearing a medical mask and a “newspaper bunk” style to contact them. In one scam, the suspect was seen with painted fingernails and was wearing tight jeans, a button-down shirt and a necklace.

Bowen Osoko, media spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department, told CHEK News in an emailed statement that there is no evidence to suggest that rental fraud has occurred in nearby communities such as Saanich and Oak Bay, but it may be possible , because the second suspect has prior charges and convictions for crimes that occurred throughout the region.

“The suspect’s prior charges that he had a conviction for are out of Saanich. He also has a significant number of prior charges and convictions here in Victoria and other municipalities across the CRD. So it’s very possible that there are more victims , that may be across the CRD, Osoko said in an emailed statement.

To contact Victoria Police, call 250-995-7654.

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