SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS)– A Skokie couple was out thousands of dollars Wednesday night that they thought was going to go toward an apartment they wanted to rent.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, police say the woman who claimed to be offering up the apartment for rent did not own it.
Debra Wasserman, 36, was charged with theft by deception with the aggravation of posing as a landlord and obtaining a rent or security deposit.
Wasserman used a variety of different fake names in her alleged scam, police said. Police on Wednesday night were still trying to determine how many victims there were.
Among the victims were the Quiroz family, who are not sure where to go from here.
“I still even have like the screenshot of the actual ad,” said Alejandro Quiroz.
Standing outside the Skokie apartment they were excited to call their own Alejandro and Viviana Quiroz said they remained in disbelief.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s like, my kids start school at the end of this month. I don’t have an address to give to the school. I don’t have money to give to my current landlord,” Alejandro Quiroz said. “Where am I going to go at the end of this month?”
Less than two weeks ago, the couple said their four young children were with them touring the top floor unit with Wasserman – the woman they now claim scammed them out of more than $3,000.
“It’s embarrassing,” Viviana Quiroz said. “It is.”
“And she’s like: ‘This is my condo. I want to rent it out to a family because I want to help, because my grandmother helped me out,’” Alejandro Quiroz said.
It’s a story police say Wasserman told more than once.
Police say Wasserman used fake names – including “Sara Goldberg,” “Sarah Goldman,” and simply, “Denise.” According to the Quirozes, Wasserman posted a Craigslist ad, created a fake lease, gave tours, took money, and handed out fake keys to at least four other couples.
“People have reached out to me already and said, ‘Oh yeah, she got me too,’” Viviana Quiroz said.
Wasserman’s alleged victims didn’t realized they’d been taken until they arrived to move in and found a deadbolt on the door.
On Wednesday night, Wasserman was in jail. She was arrested on six warrants charging her with identity theft, residential burglary, theft, and escape.
She is also facing three felony theft charges in the alleged scheme.
But the people she allegedly hurt? They’re left with nothing.
“We’re broke,” Viviana Quiroz said. “There’s nothing we can do now besides just pray and hope for the best.”
They also hope anyone who believes they lost money to Wasserman will talk to police, so such an alleged scam doesn’t happen again.
“People need to come forward,” Viviana Quiroz said.
Skokie police were sending out that same message Wednesday night. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at (847) 982-5900.
Skokie police also offered this link to Federal Trade Commission information and advice on rental listing scams.
As for the actual landlord, Molina tracked her down and she said she had no idea any of the alleged scams was going on.
The landlord said she felt sorry for the people Wasserman scammed while she herself was being evicted.
Wasserman was denied bail on Sunday.