A Minnesota woman is accused of posing as a homeowner and swindling would-be tenants by stealing their security deposits. The Dakota County attorney said there have been at least nine victims, and probably more who haven't reported their loss.
Prosecutors said 39-year-old Monica Lillemoen's deception was hard to spot because she would give people tours of the home, and even let them take pictures of the rooms. When FOX 9 stopped by to learn more, we found Lillemoen packing her things. Neighbors said since her swindling came to light, the real homeowner evicted her.
Lillemoen was posting a Lakeville home for rent on Craigslist, posing as the homeowner.
"She was claiming to some of the victims that she was going through a divorce and had to move out and was willing to rent the home, but the homeowner had not given her a right to rent the home," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.
Worse yet, Lillemoen allegedly invited would-be tenants over to have a look at the home, then asked for advanced security deposits -- anywhere from $400 to $600. When it came time for move-in day, she would say things had fallen apart and they wouldn't be able to move in. Those deposits have not been returned.
So far, prosecutors are aware of $3,000 in stolen cash among nine victims.
"She did not have that home," Backstrom said. "She was not the owner of the home, and she is not able to rent the home so that's what led us to filing felony theft-by-swindling charges."
ADVICE FOR RENTERS
Real estate attorneys warn prospective tenants searching for a new home to trust their gut.
"If you're seeing a single family home that has all the amenities and then some, and it's at rent for a steal of a deal price, it probably is a steal of a deal and the person that's getting stolen from is the tenant," said Kyle Gabriel.
Lillemoen's next court appearance is set for May. The case is still under investigation. If you have been a victim of Lillemoen's swindling, contact Lakeville police.