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Rental scam leaves Jacksonville mom out in cold

Con artist claiming to be homeowner took about $2,000, victim says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville mother says she rented a house on the Westside off Craigslist from a man who claimed to own the home, only to find out he was a con artist.

While she was gone, the real owner's realtor showed up with police, found her belongings and threw them to the curb.

Aniger Bryant said she was scammed out of a place to live and roughly $2,000 in rent and lost many of her belongings after they were just left on the curb.

Bryant said she was stunned when she came to the home she had just started renting in the past month and found all of her and her children's things thrown to the curb.

"I came home and everything was all over the yard," Bryant said.

She didn't know what had happened until she contacted police and found out she had rented the home from a scam artist, a man who she said used the name of the real owner and took an ad out on Craigslist that showed the house. He even drew up a fake lease, which Bryant signed and then moved in.

"He seemed very legitimate," Bryant said. "He showed me the home. He looked very professional. He looked really up to par."

Weeks later, the realty company that represents the actual owner came to check on the property while Bryant was at work. They found it was occupied, so they came in, threw everything to the curb and changed the locks. 

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"When they went in there and saw that it was set up as someone staying here as a family, why didn't they contact the neighbors?" Bryant said.

Local attorney Gene Nichols said the realty company had every right to throw the things out, because technically, despite being the victim of an apparent scam, Bryant was trespassing and had no rights as a squatter.

"In the state of Florida the adverse possession laws are very clear," Nichols said. "There are times when a person can claim property via adverse possession, which means they're squatting. The statute, though, requires multiple steps. It requires for years for you to be in the property, not days or weeks."

The realty company said it couldn't comment Thursday, but did say News4Jax should check into Bryant's criminal background. We did and found numerous things, including eviction notices and a criminal charge for fraud in 2011. When asked about it, she said the charges were dropped in that case.

Police said there's not much they can do about the guy who pretended to be the property owner, because the only evidence is the fake lease Bryant signed. 


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