For release on March 13, 2014   CONTACT: Katharina L. Wells, Deputy District Attorney Real Estate Fraud Unit Economic Crimes Group (408) 792-2530   REAL ESTATE AGENT CONVICTED OF SCAMMING LANDLORDS   A 52-year-old Bay area woman was given a jail sentence this week after being convicted of a series of felonies for scamming local landlords out of tens of thousands of dollars in rent. She had posed as a successful real estate agent in need of a quick place to live.   Rebecca Violette, who lied on her rental applications about her income and denied that she had a prior history of past evictions, paid for her first and last month rents with bad checks. Violette ended up living in the high-end properties in Campbell, Los Gatos, Mountain View and San Jose virtually rent-free until she was finally evicted.   Violette was convicted on January 22, 2014 of grand theft, elder financial fraud and passing bad checks. The Hon. Hector Ramon sentenced her on March 12, 2014 to four years and eight months. She will serve two years and eight months in jail followed by sixteen months of mandatory supervision.   “We are all susceptible to a fine-tuned business approach, even if it’s based on falsehoods. In this case, the defendant scammed several real estate professionals,” prosecutor Kathy Wells said. “Carefully check all references before renting to anyone.”   In May 2013, the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit opened an investigation into Violette, the subject of a series of eviction processes. She targeted higher-end rental properties that she found on Craigslist. When she met with the property owners/managers she presented herself as a well-dressed, successful real estate agent in need of a place to live. Violette convinced owners to sign a lease on the spot in exchange for a bad check for first/last month’s rent. Before the unsuspecting landlord deposited the check, Violette moved into the property. At that point, the only recourse for the landlord was an “unlawful detainer” action that typically takes 90 days from filing to eviction. That gave Violette a free place to live for the next three months. Violette jumped from rental properties in Los Gatos, Campbell, San Jose, and Mountain View over a three year period. Once caught, investigators found that Violette had scammed tens of thousands of dollars in free rent.   Property owners may access the Public Access Civil Case Information Website for Santa Clara County at www.sccaseinfo.org to research whether a prospective tenant had a prior unlawful detainer action. Rental fraud scams are on the rise particularly during this tight housing market.   ###

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