Lake Worth Man Pleads Guilty in Elaborate Mail Fraud Scheme Involving Rental Property Takeovers
A Lake Worth resident pled guilty for his participation in a mail fraud scheme involving rental property takeovers.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Robert C. Hutchinson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), and Sean Scheller, Chief, Town of Lantana, made the announcement.
Miguel Tilus, 54, of Lake Worth, pled guilty to mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of United States Code, Section 1349. Tilus faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment on each of the mail fraud and conspiracy counts and restitution of over $105,000. Tilus is scheduled to be sentenced on August 11, 2016 at 9:00 a.m., before United States District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg. Co-conspirators Kesner Joaseus, 46, of Wellington, and Wadno Dorneau, 36, of West Palm Beach, are scheduled for trial on August 8, 2016.
According to court documents, a legitimate real estate investment trust based in Georgia, RHA 2, LLC, owns dozens of properties in Palm Beach and Broward Counties that it leases out as residential single family homes. This company operates as HavenBrook Homes. From November 2014 through January 2016, Dorneau, Joaseus and Tilus conspired, using the similar company name “RHA Two, LLC,” to illegally take possession of and rent the residences lawfully owned by HavenBrook Homes by assuming the legitimate company’s identity.
In order to accomplish this, the co-conspirators identified and monitored the status of homes being renovated by HavenBrook Homes. When construction was nearing completion, Joaseus would remove the lockbox from a targeted home and call a locksmith to change the locks on the home. Immediately after having the locks changed, sometimes within hours, the defendants placed signs in high traffic areas advertising a home for rent and posting one of several prepaid cell phone numbers.
According to court documents, including the plea agreement and proffer, Tilus admitted that numerous times, he arranged to meet prospective tenants at the property, present bogus leases with a counterfeit “HavenBrook Homes” logo, and collect thousands of dollars in money orders or cash, purportedly for security deposits and rent for the houses. Tilus and the other defendants always used aliases when dealing with the tenants. In this manner, the defendants collected purported lease payments from dozens of tenants of houses owned by HavenBrook Homes which the defendants had no right to possess.
HavenBrook Homes has confirmed that at least 80 homes owned by them have been fraudulently taken over in this manner, resulting in fraud losses of rental income that could exceed $100,000 per month for all of 2015.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the ICE-HSI and the Lantana Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Jorgensen.