Three Palm Beach County Residents Charged in Elaborate Fraud Scheme Involving Rental Property Takeovers
Three Palm Beach County residents are charged with running a fraudulent rental property scheme that caused the true property owner to sustain financial losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. 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), Miami Field Office, Sean Scheller, Chief of Police for the Town of Lantana, Florida, and Delany De-Leon Colon, Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, made the announcement.
Kesner Joaseus, 46, of Wellington, FL, Wadno Dorneau, 36, of West Palm Beach, and Miguel Tilus, 54, of Lake Worth, were charged by criminal complaint for their participation in a fraud scheme from November 2014 through January 2016. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 1349 (Case No. 16-CR-8005). The defendants each face up to 20 years imprisonment, up to $250,000 in fines and mandatory restitution, on each count of conviction. Detention hearings have been scheduled for each defendant on January 19, 2016 in West Palm Beach.
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 the present, Joaseus, Dorneau and Tilus have conspired to use a similar company name, “RHA Two, LLC,” to illegally take possession of and rent the homes lawfully owned by HavenBrook by assuming the legitimate company’s identity.
In order to facilitate the fraud scheme, the defendants identify and monitor the status of homes being renovated by HavenBrook. When construction is nearing completion, the defendants remove the lockbox from a targeted home and call a locksmith to change the locks. After having the locks changed, sometimes within hours, the defendants place signs in high traffic areas advertising a home for rent and post one of several prepaid cellular telephone numbers.
When individuals seeking to rent a house call the listed numbers, one of the defendants arranges to meet the prospective renter at the property, presents the renter with fraudulent leases with a counterfeit “HavenBrook Homes” logo, and collects thousands of dollars in money orders or cash, purportedly for the security deposit, as well as the first and last month’s rent. In this manner, the defendants collected purported lease payments from dozens of tenants of houses owned by which the defendants had no right to possess.
During the course of the fraud scheme, at least 80 homes owned by HavenBrook Homes were taken over by the defendants, causing the company to sustain approximately $100,000 a month in rental income losses.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the ICE-HSI, Lantana Police Department, and USPIS. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Jorgensen.
A complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.