3 charged with running rental property scheme

Posted at 3:52 PM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-11 23:28:23-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Dozens of people were scammed out of thousands of dollars in a rental scam, according to federal agents. Three Palm Beach County men are in federal custody and charged with fraud after allegedly illegally renting out 80 homes in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

According to court documents, the suspects, Kesner Joaseus, Wadno Dorneau, and Miguel Tilus got locksmiths to change the locks of homes, took keys from lockboxes of other homes, and rented out the properties themselves.  They allegedly posted signs on busy roadways advertising the properties for rent and used pre-paid cell phone numbers to communication with potential renters.

Court documents say the men created fake leases and took first and last month's rent along with a security deposit from victims. In some cases, construction crews showed up to some homes to begin renovations scheduled by the lawful owners and found the homes were not vacant.

"This is preposterous to know this is happening just two houses away from," said Walton Leiba.

Leiba lives close to a home on S 14 street that was used for a fake rental.

"This family probably thinking that they had a good deal as in America as they say, if it's too good it's not real," added Leiba.

Court documents say the three men did this from November 2014 to December 2015. The fraud loss for the company that lawfully owns the 80 properties used is about 100,000 dollars a month, according to the court documents. 

Myles Minns is a broker and owner of Continental Properties. He says these types of scams are no unusual. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

"If somebody is trying to rent something half the amount and everybody else wants more, you know there' s a problem," said Minns.

Minns says if you are being pushed to move in quickly or sign a lease quickly, it's cause for alarm. Monthly rent was also being sent to a P.O. box address, Minns says that's another red flag. He recommends getting a realtor if you don't know how to do your research. Leiba says it's a lesson for everyone, even the residents in neighborhoods targeted.

"You'll see your neighbor and then you'll see a new set of neighbors and you're wondering, wow like that happened?" added Leiba.

Court documents say there were also victims in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. The 80 homes targeted were confirmed to be owned by HavenBrook Homes. We've reached out to the company for comment. At this time we don't know how long victims were living in these homes.