A New Jersey man scammed families out of thousands of dollars by advertising homes for rent that were actually foreclosed, prosecutors say.
Barton K. Hodge, 37, pretended to be the owner of two foreclosed homes in Roselle, and advertised them to potential tenants as renovated properties, according to Union County prosecutors.
One of the victims, Giselle Bond, told NBC 4 New York she found the listing on Craigslist, where the monthly rental was posted for $1,600 a month. She said Hodge had actually renovated the place, putting in new carpeting, paint and appliances.
Then he had her sign what appeared to be a valid, notarized lease and took a $2,500 deposit.
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"He took all the money," she said. "I was paying him rent every month. He took everything."
Prosecutors say Hodge collected more than $15,000 in rent and security deposit from two families over the course of six months. The actual owners of the homes on East Second Avenue and West Fifth Avenue had no idea what was going on.
Bond suspected something was wrong when an overdue gas bill came to the house in the name of the previous owner, and Hodge was suddenly not available to explain it. So she did some homework.
"I went to the city and I pulled records on the house," she said. "I got who is the owner of the house, and the house is a foreclosure house."
After an investigation, Hodge was arrested Tuesday afternoon moments after collecting rent from one of his tenants. He's charged with two counts of third-degree theft by deception and is being held on $50,000 bail.
Attorney information for Hodge wasn't immediately available.
"He has me and my family homeless," said Bond. "I'm practically homeless. I have nowhere to go."
Looking back, Bond says there were some warning signs: Hodge never asked for a credit check or proof of employment. She considers it a lesson learned, but nevertheless feels betrayed.
"He portrayed himself as being a landlord, and he absolutely had nothing," she said. "He's a con artist."
The bank is giving Bond and her two daughters time to find a new home and police will try to get some of the money back to the victims.