Vancouver renters defrauded, cops couldn’t help
A woman confessed to 24 hours after being questioned about whether she’d posed as an apartment’s owner and taken deposit money from people without intending to rent it to them — but says it was because she lost her job. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)
“I lied,” blubbered “Mandy” during a second phone call to 24 hours on Wednesday.
The young woman recanted her previous denials and launched into a tearful confession — that she scammed would-be tenants out of their damage deposits using multiple identities and stringing them along.
“I just needed $800 to pay my bill,” said “Mandy,” who wouldn’t give her surname, but said she lost her retail job and her credit card was frozen. “I was desperate … You can print the story and I will go to the police, I will return their money.”
Two separate would-be tenants said they looked at the apartment “Mandy” lives in at 1330 Burrard St., which she falsely claimed to own.
Tzveta Tchernokojeva, 27, saw an ad on Craigslist and visited the unit twice.
“She asked me for $400 for a damage deposit,” the rental car worker said, saying the woman told her she could move in May 1 and the rent was $800. “That morning, I rented a car and had all my things in the car.”
The deal fell through, but the money was already gone. “Mandy” set up meetings at cafes to return the money, but never show up.
“I know there are scams where they send a picture of the place and ask for money, but I met this woman twice and I saw the place,” she said. “I lost the money, but the worst thing was that I was ready to move on May 1, and I didn't know where to go with all my things.”
Another victim was David Hunt, 23, who also viewed the apartment. This time the rent was $950. He signed a lease and gave her a bank draft, which could not be cancelled once he discovered the scam
“She said, 'I own the apartment with my mother,'” he said. “But she doesn't own it — she lets people view the apartment, gets the money, and then you don't hear from her again.”
Hunt said he filed a police report, but despite repeated calls no officer replied as of press time. Citing privacy, Sgt. Randy Fincham of the Vancouver police could not comment on the particular case, but said “rental scams” are increasingly common.
“When incidents like this get reported to police, we can log them and see how big the problem is with one person,” he said. “It could be fraud or it could be a civil agreement — it would take investigation to see what the circumstances were.”
Hunt refused to accept the apology from “Mandy.”
“I'm not walking away from this,” he said. “I'm $20,000 in student debt and I'd never do this to someone, scam people and string them along … It's insane — it's like out of a movie.”