A Flushing man pleaded guilty Friday, May 28, to stealing more than $50,000 in an apartment rental scam, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
More than a dozen apartment hunters were victimized by Cesar Fernandez-Loor, 38, who promised housing to applicants, then collected rental deposits without actually permitting anyone to move in, according to Katz. Many of the victims were immigrants living in Jackson Height and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Fernandez-Loor pleaded guilty to grand larceny and Queens Criminal Court Judge Karen Gopee ordered the defendant to pay more than $50,000 in restitution to the 18 victims. The judge indicated that if Fernandez-Loor failed to pay what was owed the victims he would face up to seven years in prison.
According to court records, the victims called a phone number listed on apartment rental advertisements posted in the Jackson Heights area and then scheduled appointments to meet in person. At those meetings, Fernandez-Loor presented himself as a real estate agent working for ACT Realty Corp. and distributed business cards with both his name and the company’s name. He then showed the victims the apartments, and upon approval, required them to pay a security deposit. However, none of the would-be renters were permitted to move in.
The defendant offered various excuses or completely cut off all communications with the would-be renters, according to court records. On occasion, he would provide refund checks to applicants — checks that were subsequently returned for insufficient funds.
Katz cited a May 2018 Univision report highlighting complaints from numerous victims of the rental scheme, which mentioned ACT Realty. As a result of the news segment and more victims coming forward an investigation was launched by the Queens District Attorney’s office of Immigrant Affairs. The investigation was transferred to the NYPD’s Grand Larceny Unit, who had also been investigating Fernandez-Loor who was later arrested.
“The victims were looking for a place to call home,” Katz said. “Adly, they crossed paths with a con artist determined to enrich himself at their expense. In this case, I am happy to say, the victims are getting their money back.”
Katz urged all victims of housing rental schemes, deed or mortgage fraud, wage theft, unsafe working conditions and other crimes involving real estate and labor to contact the DA’s Housing and Worker Protection Bureau at 718-286-6673.