Police: multiple victims lose rental deposits in Craigslist housing scam

Police believe there may be more victims

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - St. Petersburg Police arrested a man for posting multiple phony Craigslist ads, duping unsuspecting renters out of thousands of dollars. 

Courtney Daniels, of St. Petersburg, is in jail on two counts of scheme to defraud. 

Investigators say convicted felon met with at least two victims pretending to rent out a home located at 3825 49th Avenue North, St. Petersburg. 

The suspect required that both victims fill out a rental application containing personal information like address, employment, and social security numbers. 

Daniels also collected a $500 deposit from both victims to secure a lease on the property. 

According to an arrest warrant, in both cases, Daniels met the victims off site and provided written receipts. 

"He had all at the legitimate paperwork, you know, the application, he gave me the receipt for the deposit for the money that I had given him," said Jennifer Van Houten. 

Van Houten thought she found the perfect home to rent for her daughter and two grandchildren, but soon realized it was a scam. 

She's still stuck struggling to find an affordable place to live right before the holidays. 

"Absolutely devastating," said Van Houten. "I was on cloud 9. The kids were excited that they were going to have their own, a new house, a fenced-in backyard they could play in."

Van Houten met Daniels in a McDonald's parking lot and now realizes that should have been a red flag. 

Court records show Daniels had been out of prison only three days before police say he posted the fake rental ad. 

Police believe there may be more victims out there. They warn any potential renter to research ownership through the county's property appraisers web site. 

They also warn that an owner or property manager should always offer to do a walk through or at least meet you at the property. 

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