I was the victim of a Craigslist sublet scam last week. I’m still in shock, because I consider myself very knowledgeable about New York real estate and the kinds of scams that can happen, but I was taken.
I saw the ad on Craigslist (pictured). It was for a $1,200 a month walk-up studio at 40 Horatio Street, #14, in the West Village. The ad had a cell phone number rather than an email address, so I texted and arranged with a woman who said her name was Delores Dunk to see the place on Sunday morning, Halloween.
I met her there. It was a third floor walk-up studio – cute, clean furnished with a mid-century modern look. It was not shabby.
She was in her 20s, a young college grad type, about 5’ 8”, black. She was friendly and articulate talked a really good story. She said she spent most of her time at her boyfriend’s and had seven months left on her lease. She was willing to sublet to me for one to three months beginning the next day. She had asked for $1,200 in cash but the ATM would only give me $1,000, and she said fine, she would meet me on Monday for the other $200.
She gave me the keys to the front door and to the building. She stood there while I tried them. They worked. I left, expecting to hear from her the next day to set up a time to give her the rest of the cash. But she never called, and when I tried the cell phone number she gave me, it was dead.
I went to the apartment building and the keys to the apartment no longer worked. I called the management company. They said, “You’re the third person to call.” They had the contact information for another guy who had been scammed and I called him, and heard about yet another person who had fallen for it. Then I went to the police station to file report.
That's where I found out everything. The apartment belonged to someone who legally sublet it to someone else, and that person was apparently renting it out for short term stays on Craigslist. He rented it to “Delores” and a friend/accomplice that weekened, the last two days before his lease was up and a new legal tenant was scheduled to take over. (That's why my key didn't work - the landlord had changed the locks for the new legal tenant.)
“Delores” (who also went by Maria Mena and Delores Mena) and her partner who I never met scammed five people. One person paid two months up front--$2,400 cash—and three others paid $1,200 each. I paid the least. So these two con artists made $7,000 cash in one weekend. And they stole the 32” flat screen television that was in the apartment.
The police said there is very little hope of getting my money back. In retrospect, I never should have paid in cash. They should have been able to take a check. Also, she only asked for rent, not a security deposit, which was odd. I wish I had a picture to post, but all I have is the Craigslist ad. I hope talking about this keeps someone else from being scammed.