MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - People have been scammed on Miami Beach while looking for a place to live.

Several victims paid a deposit for a new apartment only to later realize they had been ripped off.

“We were fooled, and we were scammed,” said Grecia Gurrero.

A couple was conned out of cash in a cruel real estate rental hustle.

“We saved up everything we had,” said Jassel Gomez.

The couple had plans and money to lease a unit at a South Beach apartment, until they and police said they were swindled.

“They make their money by scamming,” said Gomez. “They clear the apartment, make it seem like it’s ready for move-in, and they fool people.”

Twenty-five-year-old Jeremey Rivera now sits in jail charged with allegedly duping several families from Miami to Miami Beach with similar scams.

“He had us go up there, sit in an office, sign documents, go over the agreement and everything,” said Gomez.

For Gomez and Gurrero, they said it started with meeting Rivera at a Brickell office building after seeing an ad of his online.

“We were afraid we were gonna lose our place and that this was going to a lease after someone else, so we made a rash decision,” said Gomez.

“They paid the subject $2,000 in cash as a deposit. The defendant provided a receipt and provided a move in date,” says an arrest report.

When it was time to move in, weeks later, officers allege “he stopped answering her phone calls.”

“He’s not answering his phone,” said Gomez.

“He’s like not responding,” said Gurrero.

So they went to the Meridian Avenue building where they hoped to move in but…

“It was actually a squatter situation going on inside the apartment,” said Gomez.

When the victims returned to the residence to move in, they discovered that the apartment was occupied by unknown subjects. There was no move in and no sign of Rivera, who took their deposit.

They called law enforcement, and eventually he was found and arrested, but the pain for this family hasn’t stopped.

“We fell behind on bills,” said Gurrero. “We’ve had to apply for rental assistance.”

“Everyone is getting really good at impersonating and scamming and using vulnerability as a weapon,” said Gomez.

Rivera remains in jail with charges of fraud, practicing real estate without a license and other charges.

He has cases that date back to 2021, many are for scams on Meridian Avenue.

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