Alleged ‘Mastermind' Scammer Makes First Court Appearance

The NBC4 I-Team first exposed his alleged scam five years ago

A man who authorities say scammed thousands of locals looking for rental homes remained behind bars Monday after making his first appearance in court.

Richard Rodriguez appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court, but didn't enter a plea on felony charges of conspiring to defraud customers. His bail was set at $1 million.

The NBC4 I-Team first exposed his alleged scam five years ago and how he ran agencies that promised to find homes to live in for $200 cash or your money back.

Every time authorities closed down one of his agencies, he took off, but the I-Team found him in business again.

Rodriguez was arrested without incident at his Alhambra home last month. Lieutenant Phillip Marquez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said there could be more than 1,000 victims.

Some of the alleged victims could receive refunds. The Los Angele County District Attorney's Office is pursuing the case and says it hopes to recover money taken from customers, estimated at about $200,000. That's just from one of Rodriguez's numerous agencies.

"One of the things we always do in any criminal case is to attempt to get restitution for our victims," Deputy District Attorney Jessie McGrath said. "That's one of the goals of the DA's office."

The DA's case also charges seven of Rodriguez's employees with felonies.

Rodriguez, dubbed by authorities the "mastermind" of rental scams, will be back in court June 2 to enter a plea.

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