She’s charged with 2 counts of third-degree grand theft, organizing a scheme to defraud and doing real estate without a license. Another suspect remains at large.
MIAMI – A Miami woman who posed as a real estate agent was arrested Wednesday for her involvement in a Little Havana rental scam – and another suspect remains at large, according to authorities.
Valerie Valentina Meza-Faublack was charged with two counts of third-degree grand theft, organizing a scheme to defraud and doing real estate without a license, court records show. The 21-year-old is behind bars at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center as of Thursday night after pleading not guilty in court earlier that day.
The fraud, first reported by WPLG Local 10 News, began when Miguel Cruz Perez saw an ad in late February in the Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Americas for a one-bedroom apartment being rented at 1400 NW 3rd St. in Little Havana, according to Meza-Faublack’s redacted arrest report.
Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser records show the property is owned by 1400 At Marlins LLC, which in turn is registered to the real estate firm Metro Consulting & Management, Inc. Metro hadn’t answered Miami Herald’s request for comment as of Wednesday night. Neither company is mentioned in the report.
When Cruz Perez called the number in the ad, according to Miami police, a woman who said her name was Hamanda responded, setting up a meeting for three days later on Feb. 28. Police say she told Cruz Perez that she was a real estate agent, and to bring $4,050 for the security deposit, first and last month’s rent to an office building in 80 SW 8th St. #2000 in Brickell. There, Hamanda told Cruz Perez that he would get the apartment keys on March 1, police say.
But when Cruz Perez arrived at the apartment, Hamanda wasn’t there with the keys. Instead, police say, Maria Ramirez and an unnamed third person arrived saying the same apartment had been rented to them.
The group went to the Brickell office to find out what was going on, according to the report. As they told each other what happened, police say they had similar stories: two Latina women were renting the same apartment and instructed each of them to pay $4,050 to get the keys.
Ramirez said that a woman who identified herself as Natalia, a real estate agent, gave her a tour of the apartment, investigators said. Police say Hamanda showed the apartment to Cruz Perez, and even took a photo with him.
“During the showing of the apartment all parties were present (victims and defendants),” police said on the report. “However, when the funds were collected for the rent and the security deposit, the two victims hand-delivered their cash to both defendants on separate dates.”
Police noted in the report that an employee at the Brickell building told the group that the office is rented for meetings by people who have a membership. Neither a Hamanda nor Natalia were listed as members, police say.
Cruz Perez identified Meza-Faublack as Hamanda in a March 28 photo lineup, according to investigators. Three days later, Ramirez identified “Natalia,” police say.
On Wednesday, police say Meza-Faublack arrived at a police station for a scheduled appointment with detectives, and agreed to speak with them without having an attorney present. What she told them, though, was redacted from the police report. She was then arrested and taken to the detention center.
As for Natalia, whose real name is also redacted on the report, remains at large, according to Meza-Faublack’s arrest report.
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