HOUSTON – Houston police have charged a former apartment leasing agent with stealing residents’ rent checks and depositing them into her own bank account, officials say.
Nora Calzada Zavala, 40, worked at the Fallbrook Apartment complex at 201 Plaza Verde Dr. in Houston until last September when she was confronted with evidence of the thefts and abruptly quit, according to police.
The alleged thefts were discovered when residents complained that they had received late payment or eviction notices, despite having paid their rent, police say.
Apartment managers checked the books and found the residents’ money orders had been altered, allegedly by Zavala, who they say erased the payee’s name on the money orders and then forged either her name or the name of her husband, daughter or her landlord.
“She was taking renters’ money orders (that) they were paying rent for (and) altering, and cashing them herself, using it to pay her own rent, using it to do other things that we’re not sure of yet,” said Harris County Assistant District Attorney, Sean Teare.
Investigators also say that when apartment managers moved to evict some of the residents for non-payment, Zavala was entrusted with the filing fee and that she kept that money and never filed the evictions.
“She took checks from her employer to go file evictions on these people because they were late with rent, when in fact they weren’t,” Teare said. “And she took those checks and instead of filing the evictions was just cashing those for herself as well.”
Arrest warrants for forgery and theft were issued for Zavala last week, but she remained at large till Monday. A KPRC2 news crew found her at her home. She told KPRC2 Reporter Phil Archer that she hadn’t done anything wrong and didn’t know she was wanted by police.
“Well, I don’t need to talk to you.” Zavala told KPRC2. “You’re Channel 2. If somebody wants to talk to me they can come to my door. If the cops want to talk to me they can come to my door.”
“You didn’t know anything about this?” KPRC asked.
“No Sir I don’t, nobody has contacted me,” Zavala replied. “Obviously they have my right address cause your here. I mean so they have a way of contacting me. They have my email, my phone number, everything. So if they need to contact me, they can contact me. I don’t need to talk to you.”
Zavala said she plans to turn herself in.
She’s currently charged with theft and forgery, both felonies. Investigators say they’ve documented about $8,000 worth of checks that were taken, but say that number could grow.