NBC 10 I-Team: Condo scheme leaves families duped
It was the perfect place. Gleaming hardwood floors. Two bedrooms. Two full baths with a loft.
For Katie Gonsalves, her three children, and the family dog, condo #205 in the Red Mills Lofts in Woonsocket sounded like a dream come true.
“He signed the lease for $1,250. He wanted first month's and security, key deposit and pet deposit. So, I went to the bank withdrew it and came back. He wrote up the lease, signed it and I gave him the money,” she told the NBC 10 I-Team.
All in, she paid out $2,950.
“The next day, I tried to contact him again and he would not answer me and blocked me on Facebook,” Gonsalves said. “And I knew right then and there it was a scam.”
John Willette's contacted Gonsalves, along with many others, from his Facebook profile.
A law enforcement source told the NBC 10 I-Team six victims have come forward with similar accounts. All of them are accusing Willette of stealing up to $16,000.
Many of them, like Gonsalves, paid in cash.
“Where I'm living now my landlord prefers cash, so I didn't think anything of it,” Gonsalves said. “I didn't think someone could take a mother and her three children, look them in the eyes, and take their money from them, knowing that in a month they could be homeless.”
Gonsalves said Willette claimed he had the condo owner's permission to sublet.
The NBC 10 I-Team tracked down Matthew Boday, who is the true owner of the condo.
“I'm just finding out about it myself,” said Boday.
Boday and his wife are trying to evict Willette and said he hasn't paid rent since December. Boday has since cooperated with police and their investigation.
“I feel horrible,” Boday said.
So do the victims.
“I feel like a total fool. I feel like I let my kids down,” said Gonsalves, who would like to see Willette locked up.
Willette collected extra fees for her family’s dog. The condo association doesn’t even allow dogs.
Rhode Island court records note that they 44-year-old has a lengthy criminal record, including check fraud.