Arrest made in Holiday housing scam posted on Craigslist, leaving dozens homeless

PCSO: Michael St. John stole $30K from 15 families
Posted at 11:39 PM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 23:39:17-04

ABC Action News has obtained newly-released details in a housing scheme that detectives say duped more than a dozen families out of thousands of dollars

Farrah Hippe told ABC Action News that she was the first victim to respond to the bogus Craigslist ad featuring a house for rent on Woodfield Avenue in Holiday. 

"A home for my kids, like a fresh start kind of in a way for them," said Hippe. 

But now Hippe is out $3,200 and still trying to find a new home for her family. 

Arrest documents now reveal how detectives say Michael St. John and his girlfriend stole $28,270 from 15 families.

"I will never have closure because I will never know why, I mean, they're scam artists but still," said Hippe.  "All I can do is move forward from this and put it behind me."

According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, St. John lived with the homeowner, Julie Ann Cox.

St. John illegally advertised the home for rent after Cox died earlier this year. 

"There's some sleeping in their cars, they're homeless," said Amiee Kobielnik. "There are so many of us that don't have anything right now." 

Many called ABC Action News for help in mid-April and we were first to show the confused families waiting outside the house on Woodfield Avenue demanding answers.

"We're not going to get it back," said Kobielnik. "We're not going to get it back."

Kobielnik lost $900, but says she remains thankful St. John will no longer be stealing from other unsuspecting families.

"It's devastating, it's hurtful," said Kobielnik. "It takes my breath away, it's hard to breath."

After our reports aired, investigators say St. John stole Cox's truck and vanished. Cox's son soon reported it stolen and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office later discovered the truck at Anclote Gulf Park.  

St. John was arrested Monday for vehicle theft and 16 counts of grand theft. 

PCSO detectives believe St. John's girlfriend, Tammara Williams, was also in on the scam.