HOUSTON - A family is facing charges of felony theft in connection to an online home leasing scam, deputy constables say. A woman, her husband and her mother are in custody, but authorities need your help finding her father.
Investigators say Ariel Sustaita, 21, listed unoccupied homes for lease on Craigslist.org without permission from the homeowners. Sustaita allegedly collected thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people who were looking for a place to live.
The alleged scam came to light when a man says he paid $1,500 dollars for a home in the Spring area after seeing an ad on Craigslist. He planned to move into the home with his wife and children, but when he showed up the next door neighbor told him the home wasn't for rent.
The neighbor knows the legitimate property owners who are living out-of-state.
"He was really just kind of depressed and sad about the whole thing, and obviously he was pretty angry," said the neighbor, who did not want to be identified. "It turned out somebody put this house on Craigslist that didn't really own the rights to it and scammed him out of the first month's rent."
According to Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office investigators, Sustaita worked for a home inspection company and was able to gain access to homes in Houston, Pasadena and Atascocita.
"She was able to change the locks on the majority of the houses and put her own realtor key lock in. She ran a pretty good scam, if you will," said Assistant Chief Mark Herman with Precinct 4.
At the time of her arrest, investigators discovered a ledger containing receipts and vouchers with other victim's names and addresses, along with the dollar amount she received from each of the fraudulent leases she allegedly arranged.
Some of the alleged victims were already living in the houses and now have to move out.
"I can tell you she was very clever in what she did. She has manipulated and stole thousands of dollars from people," said Asst. Chief Herman.
The two other people in custody are her mother, 39-year-old Flora Sustaita, and Ariel Sustaita's husband, 20-year-old Gabriel Jimenez. Her father, 38-year-old Jonathan Sustaita, is not in custody.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Jonathan Sustaita, you are urged to call authorities.
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