Written by Cory Twibell: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 22 June 2012 00:00
Third Squad Commanding Officer Ray Cote said that Smith, 38, posed as a real estate agent after losing his job at a real estate agency in West Hempstead in March and used Craiglist to attract renters and secure payments. Before he was fired, Smith had won a RE/MAX award for being the most successful agent in the office.
“When the market takes a downturn and fewer homes are being sold and fewer homes are being rented, he resorted to a scam where he would show a property for rent, collect the first and last and one month’s security but he would never have any intent of actually delivering on the property,” Cote said, adding that Smith had seven children with another on the way and was in the process of getting evicted this month.
Cote said that Smith had scammed more than 100 people from Jan. 31 to May 9, resulting in upwards of $200,000 in losses to the victims. Cote noted that the number of victims “could go as high as 200.”
Smith targeted people who couldn’t afford to own a home and offered a price that was “too good to be true,” Cote said, adding how Smith would present a house for rent – one that would normally cost approximately $2,000 per month – and offer the home for around $1,300 per month. After securing payments, he would make excuses that would prevent the renters from moving in, Cote said.
“He pretended to make everything right. He would claim that the walls were being painted or the floors were being redone. When he got to the point where people were upset, he came up with a new excuse. We had two different people that rented the same house in Hempstead come forward and explain to us that they’re not getting to move in,” Cote said.
The commanding officer noted that Smith’s plan was to “stay ahead of the curve” and use his “gift of gab to con people into believing he was licensed.” When detectives arrested Smith at his East Meadow home on June 9, they found him at the computer and “online doing another scam with a different house,” Cote added.
“He was very familiar with how the system worked. He had been doing this for months. It just caught up to him because he had so many people that aren’t able to get into the properties that they paid for. They’re probably going to have a difficult time getting money back because Mr. Smith pretty much spent most of the money,” Cote said.
Residents should always deal with a licensed real estate agent and find out where their office is located, Cote added.
“We’re asking the public if you have been a victim or know someone who has been a victim of this man to please contact the police department at 1-800-244-TIPS,” Cote said.