Key to Crime: South Florida father falls victim to rental scam

(WSVN) - A South Florida father just wanted to find a house for his family, but instead, he ended up being the victim of a fake landlord with a “Key to Crime.” The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

Every father wants to give his family a safe place to live.

Kondrad Laverde, rental scam victim: “I just wanted to get a home where it can finally just be us ourselves because I am always renting along with other people.”

So Kondrad Laverde searched for a single-family home. He was excited when he spotted a Craigslist ad for a two-bedroom rental house in Sunrise.

Kondrad Laverde: “I pay $1,300 here, and the place that I found was listed at $1,000.”

He called the number on the ad.

He spoke to a man who said his name was Marvin, and he was the landlord. They made plans to tour the house.

When Marvin couldn’t make it, he explained how Kondrad could get in.

Kondrad Laverde: “It had a safety key box with a key to the home in it. I was told that he would send me the code, which he did. I opened the box, opened the door and went inside.”

The place was perfect. He wired a $1,000 to Marvin to hold the home.

Marvin told Kondrad to move right in since he already knew the lock box code.

Kondrad settled in and was ready to wire another $2,000 to complete the deposit, but something Marvin said made him pause.

Kondrad Laverde: “When you send those types of payments that has a subject matter option, where you can say what the payment is for, and he told me to put that it’s for ‘Marvin’s son’s school fee,’ so I found that kind of funny.”

Funny enough for Kondrad to call Sunrise Police, but what police told him was no laughing matter.

Marvin did not own the house. He was just someone who knew had the access code to the lock box.

Kondrad Laverde: “That’s when they told me that, ‘Yeah, this house was never listed for a $1,000. Nobody’s supposed to be here,’ and…”

The real owner is a company operated by FirstKey Homes, which manages rentals in Florida.

In a statement, they told 7News, “Rental scamming is a crime, and FirstKey Homes takes this very seriously.”

They added, “How scammers gain entry into the lock-boxed homes varies,” and “FirstKey Homes has notified organizations such as Craigslist of fraudulent listings on their site…”

We found these signs at the house, warning potential renters of how to spot a scam, but it was too late for Kondrad.

Kondrad Laverde: “Can imagine how frustrated I was, especially that I had to drag my kids along.”

We tried to track down the landlord.

Automated message: “We could not complete your call. Please try again.”

His phone was disconnected, and he didn’t live at the address listed on Kondrad’s lease.

Turns out this house is another property managed by FirstKey Homes.

Kondrad is now back at his old apartment working as many hours as he can to find another home for his family.

After Kondrad called Sunrise Police, detectives started an investigation, but so far, no arrests have been made.

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