Johnston tenants say woman pretended to be landlord, cheated them out of money
JOHNSTON, R.I. (WJAR) —
The Johnston Police Department said two families are out thousands of dollars, thanks to an alleged fake landlord.
"She seemed honest, seemed like the real landlord,” said Edward Burton, who will now have to find a new place for his family, including his three children.
Police said it's all because 32-year-old Keila Fiorentino was pretending to be the landlord of a Central Avenue home.
"She was nice. She went and notarized my papers for my kids to go to school at city hall,” said Burton. "Here's the bank account she was telling me to deposit the money."
Those gestures were all part of Fiorentino's impressive act, police said, to fool tenants out of money.
"We got a rent receipt. We did a picture of her ID,” said Kaylin Santa Maria, who began moving into the unit just a week earlier. “She gave her account number. We had all the information that we needed to make it a legit move."
Both families told NBC 10 News that Fiorentino seemed legitimate, asking them to pay the first month's rent and security deposit up-front.
One of the families even helped with repairs, investing another few thousand dollars, after they claimed Fiorentino said she’d subtract that money from their rent.
"She continued to play the role of the landlord,” said Santa Maria.
That was until the real landlord showed up and realized Fiorentino wasn’t in her apartment. The real landlord was alarmed there were people inside the house who she didn't recognize.
"It was just a tornado of stories where we just couldn't figure out who was who,” said Nicholas Lopes, who also thought Fiorentino was a real landlord.
Both families immediately called Fiorentino after meeting the real landlord.
“She shut her phone right off,” said Burton.
Police have a warrant out for Fiorentino, who, they said, will be charged with identity fraud and taking money under false pretenses.
"It's a bad situation for every person involved,” said Lopes.
"I want my money back. That's all I want,” said Burton.
Authorities said they believe the real landlord had nothing to do with the imposter, but the investigation isn't over. They’re asking anyone with information to contact their department at 401-231-4210.