Friday, November 20, 2015

Duped By Home Hijackers Peddling Phony Rent-To-Own Deal, Victim Estimates He Lost At Least $10K In Ripoff After Unwittingly Moving Himself & Family Into Vacant Home In Foreclosure

In Kennewick, Washington, KNDO-TV Channel 23 reports:
  • [T]ravis Herndon says he'll have trouble trusting anyone ever again after what Maggie Zieske and Steve Hartmann allegedly did to his family. Police tell us they believe the couple would break into foreclosed or vacant homes, change the locks, and then rent the homes themselves.

    Herndon says this scam was professional and complex, and his family is losing thousands because of it.

    Travis Herndon thought he had found his family's home for years to come. They bought new appliances, fixed the bathtub, put hours of work and thousands of dollars into their new life. "Our lifetime home," Travis Herndon said. "Something my kids could come back to when they were adults."

    Before all that, Herndon was in talks for months with this woman identifying herself as Maggie Lawson. Herndon thought the rent to own agreement she was offering seemed very cheap. So he looked into it. "Three months of my own research and looking through things, doing research on her and her background," Herndon told us.

    But the scam was extremely complex. Maggie even had Herndon meet with a man who impersonated a realtor. "I met somebody I thought was a realtor," Herndon said. "But I don't know where that person is now. And the number I used to call them doesn't work."

    Convinced the deal was real, Herndon moved in his family of three kids and three dogs. Soon enough, letters from the bank starting coming in saying the home was foreclosed. Herndon knew something was wrong, and collected every conversation or document he had from Maggie and turned it over to Kennewick Police.

    "And so when I gave that to the police, it was less than 24 hours and they were in jail," Herndon said. "So yeah I believe that what I turned in is what put them there."

    Herndon says he's losing at least $10,000 with rent costs and repairs he made around the home. Even though they can stay in the home through Christmas, the holidays are ruined.

    "Holidays are on hold," Herndon said. "You know I can't go out and buy that $200 dinner because I can't afford it. We have to save that money."

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