Mother says family living at Jacksonville Motel 6 after losing thousands in real estate scam

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville woman says she lost thousands of dollars in a home rental scam, and that she and her family are living out of a motel as a result.

On Nov. 22, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issued a warning about a real estate scam, saying two men, O’Neil Hyman, 22, and Leo Miller, 54, were arrested and facing counts of organized fraud. Hyman was also accused of acting as an unlicensed real estate broker.

The Sheriff’s Office said Hyman and Miller falsely advertised themselves as representatives of homes -- and then rented the homes out to make money. Police said some of the homes were in foreclosure or abandoned.

Leo Miller, at left, and O’Neil "Devin" Hyman (Photos provided by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office)

Amber Wright said she and her family have been staying at a Motel 6 after losing thousands of dollars. She said she learned of the scam after their home was repossessed.

Wright said she received nearly a hundred text messages from Miller and Hyman. She also had a copy of the lease she said the men told her to sign.

“They basically told us what they do is, people who are about to lose their house to foreclosure, they help them rent the house out so they don’t lose the house to foreclosure," Wright said.

Wright, who moved to Jacksonville with her husband and son from Massachusetts, said she paid a deposit via Cash App. She said she and her family moved into the rental home in July, but in November, the home was repossessed by the bank and they had to move out.

“We turned around and rented another property from them and gave them a $1,000 deposit," Wright said.

Wright said the day she and her family were moving out of the repossessed home, they ran into a licensed realtor.

“We told him we were renting another house," Wright said. "We showed him pictures of the house and he said, ‘That house is not for rent. It’s for sale. I know the agent that’s listing it.’ That’s how we found out it was a scam.”

At that point, Wright said, she was unable to reach the two men.

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“It’s cost us probably about $3,500 between the deposits, the hotel cost and the storage units," Wright said.

She said she found the first home she rented on Craigslist and that the men were very convincing over the phone.

Looking back on her experience, she said if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

“Be very careful who you rent from," Wright said. "If they do not have an office for you to go into to meet with them, don’t rent from them, and don’t ever Cash App anybody for a rental. Always use a cashier’s check. If we had used a cashier’s check, the bank would have given us our money back.”

Authorities in the Economic Crimes Unit have reason to believe there may be more victims of the scam that may not be aware. If you were in contact with Hyman or Miller, the Sheriff’s Office asks you to call 904-630-0500.

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