Michael Burke says he moved from out of state to the Tampa Bay area for a new job. He and his family found a house on Woodfield Avenue in Holiday advertised for rent on Craigslist.
“We gave them a $750 deposit for the house, an additional $300 security deposit, a $175 application fee and the first month’s rent.
He and his family were supposed to move in April 1st. That date was initially bumped back to the 7th due to "unforeseen circumstances," then another week, before Burke finally realized he'd been scammed.
“I've got kids, I've got a wife. We came down here for a happy life and apparently we've just got to keep looking,” said Burke.
The Burke's aren't alone. Today they met with other families all who paid to rent the same house, but were never able to move in.
“The last time he texted me was this morning and I haven’t heard anything since,” said Amiee Kobielnik, another one of the alleged victims.
Kobielnik says she’s been staying in a local hotel waiting to move in, but had to check out Friday and now is officially homeless.
“That's cruel … its cold hearted,” said Kobielnik.
“It breaks my heart for them,” said Aimee’s friend Jennifer Szymkiewicz, who started up a GoFundMe page to help with all the families with temporary expenses while they search for a new place to live.
“My best friend has a 2-month-old child. They don't deserve this. None of them do.”
In all, as many as 10 families are in the same situation. They all blame a man going by the name Michael St. John for offering to rent a home that was already occupied.
The families say they’ve been cooperating with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office currently investigating, but families here say they have little hope of ever getting their money returned.
“What I hope for is a home for all of us and justice … that's what I hope for,” said Kobielnik.
“I'd love to see the money back, but I'd love to see him in jail,” said Burke, who isn’t sure what’s next. “I'd love to see actions taken so other families don't have to go through the same thing we're going through.”
If you’d like to offer financial assistance to the multiple families currently looking for a place to live, you can visit the GoFundMe page set up to assist all the families.
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