They thought they were putting down deposits for apartments, but police in Des Plaines said at least four people were deceived by phony Craigslist ads.
DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) — They thought they were putting down deposits for apartments, but police in Des Plaines said at least four people were deceived by phony Craigslist ads.
The man police say took money was in court Monday.
Investigators call it a rental scam. A north suburban man faces four counts of felony theft by deception of real estate. Police said victims put down deposits to move into apartments but when move in day came, they found out they'd been had.
When Stephen Banks responded to an ad on Craigslist, he thought he'd found a perfect apartment at a reasonable price.
"He was trying to seek the, you know, the quickness in me trying to find something and he pinpointed me out it seems," Banks said.
Des Plaines police say Banks gave Stamatios Shinas, 31, $1200 in money orders for a deposit and $40 for a credit check.
"The guy had keys and everything. Nice apartment unit. Everything was functional and it worked. A couple days later I pulled up with my moving truck and the keys didn't fit, man," Banks said.
Police said the keys were not for the unit Banks rented, but for an occupied neighboring unit. Investigators said several apartment listings were posted by Shinas in May. Police said at least three other people responded and were scammed out of their so-called deposit money for apartments; units that Shinas had no authority to rent out.
"When it came time for them to move into the apartment or the unit they found it was either a occupied or not available for rent," Chief William Kushner, Des Plaines Police Department, said.
Chief Kushner said he believes Shinas was able to access rental listings, keys and codes from lock boxes through a now-closed real estate office in Des Plaines where investigators say he worked as an assistant. They said he was not a licensed realtor at the time.
County records also show Shinas went to court in August for a separate charge of theft – deception, and he pled guilty to two other theft charges in 2008 and 2009.
"If it is an individual renting an apartment you want to go there with them you want to get a key from them as soon as you sign a contract- you want to talk to people in the building is this individual the person you rented the apartment from is this person who has the authority to manage the building and check them out," Chief Kushner said.
Chief Kushner said consumers should get a PIN from the Cook County Assessor's Office and bring check with the recorder of deeds office to make sure that an individual owns the property.
Those who rent through a real estate agent can make sure they are licensed by going to the Illinois Department Of Financial And Professional Regulation's website, https://ilesonline.idfpr.illinois.gov/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx.
Banks said he's hoping that the court system and authorities can help him get his money back from Shinas.
"I hope he can redeem himself," Banks said.
Shinas is out on bond. On Monday, a judge ordered him not to contact any of the people who made complaints. One of the alleged victims listed on the police report told the ABC7 I-Team Shinas ended up giving her deposit money back.
Shinas has not responded to our requests for comment.
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