(WSVN) - It was no day at the beach for a South Florida suspect. Because of a police officer’s sharp eye and a 7News investigation, she’s now charged in a vacation rental fraud case. Kevin Ozebek has this update.
Detective Jesse Gossman, Fort Lauderdale Police Dept.: “Every once in a while, the stars just align, and the universe throws us a ground ball.”
Police detectives spend hours behind a desk, going over the details of their latest case, but for Fort Lauderdale detective Jesse Gossman, an assignment that took him out of the office ended up being the break he needed to track down his suspect.
Detective Jesse Gossman (in body camera video): “She’s the one that was on the news for the Airbnb thing.”
7 Investigates first exposed the police investigation into 31-year-old Britnee Laren Theiss back in January.
Lynn Martinez: “Police call it opportunistic and desperate.”
According to court documents, Britnee posted this house on social media, saying it was for rent, but it was a vacation rental house she did not own.
Ernie Young, victim: “All I wanted was the room. I was in a bad spot, needed a room.”
Ernie Young saw this post on Facebook advertising a room for rent. He told us he met Britnee at the property and paid her a $1,400 deposit, money he had saved to get a place of his own.
Ernie Young: “Money exchanged, money’s gone! Poof!”
When Ernie went to move in, he found out Britnee did not own the home. Two other victims came forward and told police the same thing happened to them. Their money was gone and so was Britnee.
Detective Jesse Gossman (in body camera video): “Is your name Britnee?”
Two months later, Detective Gossman was assigned to help patrol beach traffic and ran into someone he never thought he would see face-to-face.
Detective Jesse Gossman: “She initially caught my eye, and I thought she looked familiar. I didn’t have a picture of her, so I started scrolling through my phone to pull up the news article that had been done.”
Detective Gossman was certain it was Britnee, but when he questioned her, he says she gave him a fake name.
She even offered to put him in touch with a relative who would convince him that he had the wrong person.
Detective Jesse Gossman: “She told me her name was ‘Stacy.’ In her attempts to ‘verify’ her identity, she said that I could even call her uncle, who worked for a local police agency, and as soon as she said that, she kind of gave herself away.”
That’s because Detective Gossman had already talked to her police officer uncle, who was not willing to lie for his niece.
Instead, he offered to help track her down. News that was quite shocking to Britnee.
Detective Jesse Gossman (in body camera video): “Is your name Britnee? Do we need to call your uncle? Because I have his number because I’ve already been talking with him trying to find you!”
Britnee was taken to jail and charged with grand theft.
Britnee Theiss: “If you guys don’t leave me alone, I’m suing you!”
Our cameras were rolling in early March when she posted bond and was released.
Kevin Ozebek: “Anything else you wanna say about these fraudulent…”
Britnee Theiss: “No! There’s nothing I wanna say, so get the f— away from me!”
After months of searching, Detective Gossman says there’s nothing better than seeing a tough case come to a close.
Detective Jesse Gossman: “To see that whole investigation come through to fruition and actually put the handcuffs on her, just kind of seals the whole deal up.”
And police say the deal is up for Britnee.
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