You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Website Operator Charged With Defrauding More Than 2,000 Victims In New York City Apartment Search Scam

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced today the filing of a criminal complaint charging ROBERT GUZMAN with mail fraud in connection with a fraudulent apartment rental scheme that claimed more than 2,000 victims. As alleged, GUZMAN posted apartments supposedly available for rent in New York City on websites he operated, amazingapartmentrentals.com and www.equityproject.net (the “Websites”), that charged a fee to view the apartments on the Website. Between 2013 and 2016, victims paid GUZMAN (who has no real estate licenses) more than $100,000, but were never able to view the apartments purportedly available for rent on the Websites, some of which were not, in fact, in New York City, and others of which were not, in fact, available for rent. GUZMAN was arrested this morning and will be presented before the Honorable James C. Francis IV later today.

 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Robert Guzman allegedly defrauded more than 2,000 victims who were searching for a place to live in New York City. He allegedly created websites that took advantage of these victims’ desire to find affordable housing in New York city, taking fees from victims to view apartments, when in fact some of the apartments were not even in New York or available for rent. Thanks to the work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Guzman’s alleged scam has been put to an end.”

 

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “Mr. Guzman took advantage of the need for affordable housing by allegedly devising a scheme to defraud those who could least afford to lose their hard-earned funds to a scam. Today’s arrest by Postal Inspectors, exemplifies our Agency’s commitment to bring individuals to justice whose greed overshadows honesty and decency.”

 

According to the Complaint[1]:

 

From 2013 through the present, GUZMAN would post on the Websites apartments supposedly available for rent in New York City, and would charge a fee to view the apartments (the “Application Fee”). The Website included listings for apartments that were not, in fact, in New York City, as well as some that were, in fact, listed for sale, not for rent, by actual real estate companies. After the victims mailed the Application Fee to a P.O. box GUZMAN provided on the Website, the victims would never be able to view the apartments purportedly available for rent. Between 2013 and 2016, GUZMAN defrauded more than 2,000 victims of over $100,000.

 

* * *

 

GUZMAN, 42, of the Bronx, New York, was arrested this morning in the Bronx. GUZMAN was charged with mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

 

Mr. Bharara praised the efforts of the USPIS in this investigation.

 

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Jacob Warren is in charge of the prosecution.

 

The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Consumer Protection
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
17-021
Updated January 25, 2017