EL PASO COUNTY – A News 5 investigation ends with justice for families who lost money in an online rental scam.
Michael Valdez was sentenced to 18 months in jail Thursday after pleading guilty to theft. He was also given a 6-year sentence in community corrections for an unrelated crime.
“It’s a shame to say it this way but you almost have to assume everybody is going to scam you in this day and age,” Karen Engman said.
Engman is one of multiple people who put a deposit down on a rental home Valdez listed on Facebook’s “Marketplace”.
As soon as Valdez took the money, he would disappear and later re-list the property online. He primarily preyed on low-income families who were struggling to find affordable housing.
The judge gave Valdez credit for the 241 days he’s already served in jail.
To prevent falling victim to rental scams, consumer experts encourage you to make sure the person listing an ad online is the actual homeowner. You can find who owns a home by visiting your local county assessors website.
If you live in El Paso County, click here .
If you live in Pueblo County, click here .
Con artists also have access to this information so always be skeptical with landlords who aren’t willing to meet in-person.
Also, never give money out before getting a written contract first.
This story came to us through a viewer news tip. If you have a problem or issue you’d like our News 5 Investigates team to look into, call our tip line at 719-228-6275 or send an email to News5Investigates@KOAA.com.