Stealing Home: Renters claim real estate sales associates took money, did not deliver

(WSVN) - Whether you want to buy or rent, looking for a home can be stressful. Most people turn to a licensed real estate sales associates for help, but at least three South Florida residents have called police, accusing their real estate sales associates of crimes. 7’s Nicole Linsalata has more.

Desiree Hunter is a brand-new mom. She wanted to buy a house before baby Geneva was born. So she started working with Sham Donald and Nina Suliaman with First Luxury Realty in Hollywood.

Desiree Hunter: “I told her I didn’t have that much time to find a home.”

They asked for $10,000 to be put in escrow — money that would be used for the down payment.

Desiree Hunter: “I gave her $5,000 to First Luxury Realty, and she had my mother wire her $5,000 to the same company.”

Ron Flores put down a deposit of $1,800.

Ron Flores: “This was just an initial deposit. Once I gave them the money, the phone calls stopped.”

Emily Zlicha also worked with the pair. Like Ron and Desiree, she put down some serious cash.

Emily Zlicha: “Two different wires over to his Chase business account. $9,000.”

Emily found a home and signed a lease, but as her moving day approached…

Emily Zlicha: “He was not reachable. The business phone was disconnected. He stopped responding to us.”

All three victims say Sham and Nina took their money but didn’t deliver.

Ron Flores: “We thought they were legit. They were on Zillow. When we went to look at properties, their car was wrapped in the company logo that said ‘First Luxury Realty.'”

These are not the only complaints.

Last month a Broward judge ordered Nina and First Luxury to pay $5,700 in damages to a couple for “breach of contract” in a rental agreement.

And another Broward case is pending for ignoring a “certified letter demanding return of $7,800” in rental deposit money.

Emily Zlicha: “For two people to do this in person, it’s very, very scary and very gutsy.”

And there’s this: While he was working with Nina, Sham’s license was actually “inactive” — “on probation.”

State officials say that’s because of a complaint filed against him in 2015, for “failing to timely remit the Escrow Deposit” to the owner.

On Feb. 1, the state voided First Luxury’s license, and Nina’s license was also made inactive.

But First Luxury’s website is still up, listing its address in a building on Hollywood Boulevard.

But a worker told us First Luxury Realty recently moved out.

We tried contacting Sham and Nina through the company and their cellphones. No one answered.

We also looked for them at their homes, but no luck.

Ron took a chance and called Sham one more time. For the first time in weeks, he answered the phone.

Ron Flores: “‘Where’s my money, Sham? Where’s my money? It’s been three months now.’ He told me that I should speak to his attorney. Of course, he hasn’t given me a phone number to an attorney, and there’s no attorney that’s reached out to me.”

But Ron, Emily and Desiree say they did reach out to the Hollywood Police Department.

Hollywood Police Detective Larry Van Dusseldorp: “I can confirm that we’ve received reports that we’re looking into that are currently active and ongoing investigations, and right now things are pending with us.”

Meanwhile, baby Geneva is growing up in a tiny apartment. And all three say, at least they can find comfort in each other.

Desiree Hunter: “When I contacted Ron, he gave me hope. He said, ‘You know what? We’re all in this together.'”

And together, they’re putting their faith in the law.

Police say economic crimes investigations can last weeks, sometimes months, and although the wheels of justice seem to be turning slowly, they promise that they are turning. But for Ron, Emily and Desiree, resolution can’t come soon enough.

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