Victims list grows in alleged Vancouver rental scam
Almudena Ruano, left, and boyfriend Javier Perez examine a receipt they received from a woman they say scammed them out of $400, and whom they identify from photographs as Ruby Gifford. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
More people have stepped forward in the wake of a 24 hours investigation to say they were also victims of a woman who allegedly collected multiple damage deposits under various pseudonyms after pretending to be the landlord of a Burrard Street apartment.
In the May 8 edition, a woman who identified herself as “Mandy” confessed to 24 hours she had scammed two people, but promised to pay the money back and turn herself into police.
As of press time, she had done neither of those things. And now, five alleged victims have independently identified the woman they dealt with from photographs obtained by 24 hours through Facebook under the name Ruby Gifford. No charges have been laid or proven in court, and attempts to reach her Monday were unsuccessful.
Two new alleged victims said she took a $400 deposit from them and never returned it.
“We were going to go to move in at the end of this week,” said Spanish student Javier Perez, 26, who met the suspect and signed a lease. “Now we have to look for another apartment — we are now in a very bad situation.”
The first victim to come forward, David Hunt, said police told him she didn't show up for a scheduled meeting with officers.
The owner of several units in the same building, including that of the alleged suspect, said he could not identify his tenant or declare anyone guilty without further evidence.
“If the scenario is what was going on, it's a very smart scam,” Salim Lakhani told 24 hours. “If true, the biggest thing is we want to stop the person from continuing to make victims.”
VPD Sgt. Randy Fincham said he could not confirm if there is a police investigation into the suspect or to verify her identity.
“A lot of these people are using assumed names and renting out under an assumed name,” he said. “If you take money, but there was no intent to have that property available, it certainly could count as fraud.”
Lakhani said the allegations have raised a larger issue — that there's not much more landlords can do in such a scenario.
“The Residential Tenancy Branch is completely useless in this situation,” he said. “This is a loophole in our system. There needs to be some transparency.”