Fla. Couple Sentenced for Rental Scams, More

Nellie R. Ortiz

HIALEAH, Fla. – Two months immediately after Hialeah pair Vivian Rodriguez and Yovany Serna have been convicted of fleecing a relatives out of just about $1.8 million in an financial investment rip-off, a Miami judge has sentenced them to 15 and 14 decades in jail, respectively.

And that may perhaps be just the beginning of their authorized challenges.

Hialeah police detectives have now identified at the very least 19 victims in a individual fraud. The pair preyed on determined home hunters, thieving rental deposits for the exact Hialeah performance, cops say. They are struggling with dozens of new felony fees that could drastically boost the time they devote in jail.

The hottest cases come as the prices of South Florida’s housing market have skyrocketed to untenable degrees, pricing out the middle course from buys, spurring landlords to jack up rents by far more than 50% and sparking regional governments to take into consideration regulations to support struggling tenants. Miami is now the country’s minimum inexpensive housing current market.

On Tuesday, tenants affiliated with the Miami Employees Heart program to protest exterior Miami-Dade County Hall, to urge commissioners to improve protections for tenants reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and ballooning housing fees.

In opposition to that backdrop, a lot more and a lot more men and women are also falling victims to scammers who use social media to target house hunters.

On Monday, Homestead law enforcement detectives declared they’d arrested Priscilla Marie Contreras, 32, on allegations she posed as a serious-estate agent and made use of Fb Market to “rent” a household and acknowledge deposits from unsuspecting would-be tenants – but the dwelling was not actually for lease. Two others who posed as home owners, Yordani Carriles Diaz, 43, and Deinoser Bravo, 47, are on the lam, law enforcement say.

Investigators have documented at least 16 victims in Homestead and other elements of Miami-Dade County, in accordance to Homestead police.

“Detectives imagine that there is a solid probability that there are a lot more victims who have been preyed on by these subjects,” explained Homestead Law enforcement Capt. Fernando Morales.

Social media rental frauds

In a statement, Miami-Dade State Lawyer Katherine Fernandez Rundle cautioned renters that rock-bottom charges advertised on the web can occasionally be also fantastic to be accurate.

“In our restricted rental sector, people today determined to uncover economical housing can be quick prey for rental scammers,” she stated. “These con artists will market a superior deal to draw their victims in, even supplying receipts for any funds furnished. Regrettably, when the fraud is detected and the scammer has your money, that receipt may possibly show worthless.”

In a individual but similar situation, Rodriguez and Serna are in jail awaiting trial on accusations that they fleeced persons who considered they were being paying deposits for an performance at 20 W. 60th St., attached to the dwelling where by Rodriguez and Serna were living.

In all, Hialeah police detectives have recognized at least 19 victims. So considerably, Rodriguez has been charged in 18 independent conditions, Serna in 16. Equally encounter prices these kinds of as grand theft and structured scheme to defraud.

The victims all shared identical tales: desperate for housing, they made use of Facebook Market to locate the efficiency and satisfy with Rodriguez and Serna, who informed them an elderly person was still living in the efficiency, but they could transfer in a person week later. They compensated deposits of $1,000 and were being even given a paper receipt.

But Rodriguez and Serna hardly ever allowed the victims to shift in and stopped returning calls. Finally, in mid-December, a quantity of them showed up to the effectiveness demanding to transfer in or get their funds back again – and they all recognized they’d been duped, in accordance to police studies.

In December, the few was initially billed with 8 situations, and the rest have been extra in recent months. Rodriguez’s legal professional declined to comment. Serna’s lawyer did not return a request for remark.

House flipping fraud

The two are back in jail immediately after a jury convicted them in a wholly distinctive scam.

The pair was convicted of thieving just about $1.8 million from a loved ones that assumed it was investing in a property-flipping enterprise. Rodriguez, a real estate agent, served broker the deals and Serna, a handyman, was to renovate the properties for re-sale.

But 31 of the 32 attributes they purported to have acquired weren’t even for sale, investigators say. At demo, prosecutors claimed the funds they spent on private charges, together with above $220,000 at regional casinos, cruises and journeys to Disney Environment and Europe.

Rodriguez herself took the stand throughout the December demo, suggesting the victims knew the paperwork she’d offered them had been bogus – whilst at a person stage even complimenting point out prosecutors for the amount of money of evidence they’d amassed.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Circuit Decide Miguel de la O sentenced Rodriguez to 15 years in prison and 15 many years probation, Serna to 14 in jail and 16 of probation. All through the listening to, the judge did not mince words.

“You are robbers. Some people rob with a gun, you robbed with your words. You relied on your shared Cuban background and your presentation as a spouse and children, and utilised [the victims’] belief from them,” de la O informed them. “There’s tiny variance in between what you did and if you experienced walked into a lender and handed a notice to the teller asking for 1.5 million bucks, other than that you have affected the relaxation of their life and their children’s lives.”

© 2022 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Written content Agency, LLC.

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