The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit reported the arrest of 47-year-old Monique Geraldine Morris on Friday, May 2, for carrying out multiple counts of grand theft after renting out the same condominium to multiple tenants in March and April of this year.
It is believed that Morris took out an ad using Craigslist to advertise a “too good to be true” rental agreement with multiple victims. She would show the potential tenants a rental property and then she would collect the down payment from each of them. After later finding that they had been defrauded, many contacted local law enforcement offices.
According to the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office, an individual that feels they may have been a victim of fraud should report it to the Police Department or County Sheriff’s Office where the crime occurred. The law enforcement agencies will then follow up on the information and determine whether the information is credible or not credible. The law enforcement agencies handling the case will then decide whether to file and where, based on where the crime occurred and in whose jurisdiction.
According to Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Connors for the Real Estate Fraud Unit, “Everybody believes that you can find the best deal on the web”. However, criminals take advantage of potential buyers in an open market system. “If you use the Internet to find a rental property, use the Internet to check that it’s legitimate,” Connors said.
Morris had used Craigslist to advertise rooms for rent, and/or her condo to rent. Morris would then give prospective tenants a tour of the condo located at 928 Catkin Court, in San Jose. She would then ask the potential tenants to pay a one-time deposit fee. She had the victims sign a lease agreement form after taking their money.
After the first signing, Morris continued with two more prospective tenants falling prey to her scam. Each time she would have the prospective tenant sign a lease agreement and accept a deposit. “Faced with suspicious tenants, Morris did not return any of the thousands of dollars she received as deposits,” Connors said.
It appears this scam is not new to Morris. According to the website Scambook.com, a user posted a complaint about Monique (aka Nicole) Morris in August of 2012. They said they gave her $1700.00 and that they never heard from her again. Another user in October said they gave her $1950.00 and their move in date was repeatedly delayed. They finally asked for their money back and did not get it. In November someone claimed to have provided $3600.00, and was told there had been a flood and mold, and that after waiting, they never got their money back. That user stated that she posts the 2 bedroom 2 bath condo, as well as a room to rent, on Craigslist all the time. An investigator posted a message on the site as well to offer help, but it is not clear if she was ever charged at that time. A records search did reveal, however, an unrelated DUI charge for her in April 2013.
Morris was charged this May with three counts of grand theft, and one count of attempted grand theft. Bail was set in the amount of $150,000. If convicted, she faces more than four years in custody. The next court date has been set for June 10, 2014 at 9:00 in dept. 35. If you or someone you know tried to rent either a room at 928 Catkin Court, or the entire condo, please contact Santa Clara County District Attorney Investigator Tanaya Rose at (408) 792-2923.