Fla. Couple Sentenced for Rental Scams, More

HIALEAH, Fla. – Two months after Hialeah couple Vivian Rodriguez and Yovany Serna ended up convicted of fleecing a family out of practically $1.8 million in an investment decision scam, a Miami judge has sentenced them to 15 and 14 decades in prison, respectively.

And that may well be just the beginning of their authorized troubles.

Hialeah law enforcement detectives have now recognized at the very least 19 victims in a independent rip-off. The pair preyed on desperate household hunters, thieving rental deposits for the exact Hialeah efficiency, cops say. They are struggling with dozens of new felony expenses that could considerably raise the time they shell out in prison.

The most recent situations come as the costs of South Florida’s housing sector have skyrocketed to untenable degrees, pricing out the center class from buys, spurring landlords to jack up rents by much more than 50% and sparking neighborhood governments to think about regulations to assistance struggling tenants. Miami is now the country’s minimum inexpensive housing market.

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

Against that backdrop, extra and far more persons are also slipping victims to scammers who use social media to focus on home hunters.

On Monday, Homestead police detectives introduced they’d arrested Priscilla Marie Contreras, 32, on allegations she posed as a authentic-estate agent and utilised Fb Marketplace to “rent” a household and take deposits from unsuspecting would-be tenants – but the household wasn’t really for lease. Two other people who posed as house owners, Yordani Carriles Diaz, 43, and Deinoser Bravo, 47, are on the lam, police say.

Investigators have documented at the very least 16 victims in Homestead and other elements of Miami-Dade County, according to Homestead law enforcement.

“Detectives feel that there is a strong likelihood that there are far more victims who have been preyed upon by these subjects,” explained Homestead Police Capt. Fernando Morales.

Social media rental scams

In a statement, Miami-Dade Point out Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle cautioned renters that rock-bottom costs advertised on the internet can at times be far too very good to be correct.

“In our restricted rental marketplace, individuals desperate to discover very affordable housing can be simple prey for rental scammers,” she mentioned. “These con artists will advertise a very good offer to attract their victims in, even giving receipts for any revenue supplied. Unfortunately, when the rip-off is detected and the scammer has your money, that receipt may well confirm worthless.”

In a independent but comparable case, Rodriguez and Serna are in jail awaiting trial on accusations that they fleeced people today who thought they were spending deposits for an performance at 20 W. 60th St., connected to the house exactly where Rodriguez and Serna were being living.

In all, Hialeah law enforcement detectives have identified at minimum 19 victims. So significantly, Rodriguez has been charged in 18 independent cases, Serna in 16. Both equally face charges these as grand theft and organized scheme to defraud.

The victims all shared equivalent stories: desperate for housing, they employed Fb Marketplace to obtain the performance and satisfy with Rodriguez and Serna, who instructed them an elderly gentleman was nevertheless living in the effectiveness, but they could go in 1 7 days later on. They compensated deposits of $1,000 and have been even specified a paper receipt.

But Rodriguez and Serna never permitted the victims to go in and stopped returning calls. Eventually, in mid-December, a quantity of them showed up to the efficiency demanding to go in or get their money again – and they all realized they’d been duped, in accordance to police studies.

In December, the couple was first billed with 8 conditions, and the rest have been included in current months. Rodriguez’s lawyer declined to comment. Serna’s law firm did not return a ask for for comment.

Property flipping rip-off

The two are back in jail right after a jury convicted them in a wholly distinct rip-off.

The pair was convicted of thieving virtually $1.8 million from a relatives that thought it was investing in a household-flipping company. Rodriguez, a real estate agent, served broker the deals and Serna, a handyman, was to renovate the homes for re-sale.

But 31 of the 32 attributes they purported to have acquired weren’t even for sale, investigators say. At demo, prosecutors explained the dollars they expended on personalized expenditures, which include in excess of $220,000 at regional casinos, cruises and trips to Disney Globe and Europe.

Rodriguez herself took the stand in the course of the December trial, suggesting the victims knew the documents she’d given them were bogus – when at 1 level even complimenting point out prosecutors for the volume of evidence they’d amassed.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Circuit Choose Miguel de la O sentenced Rodriguez to 15 several years in jail and 15 decades probation, Serna to 14 in prison and 16 of probation. For the duration of the listening to, the decide did not mince words.

“You are robbers. Some people rob with a gun, you robbed with your terms. You relied on your shared Cuban track record and your presentation as a spouse and children, and employed [the victims’] belief against them,” de la O informed them. “There’s little variance in between what you did and if you experienced walked into a financial institution and handed a be aware to the teller asking for 1.5 million bucks, besides that you have afflicted the relaxation of their life and their children’s life.”

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