Sacto 9-1-1
September 11, 2008
Rental scam results in jail time, restitution for Sacramento man

M Blair.jpgFrom Niesha Lofing:

A Sacramento man is facing a year in jail and hefty fines after conducting a real estate scam using the popular Craigslist Web site.

Michael Eugene Blair (left photo), 28, pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple counts of theft by false pretense, Sacramento police Sgt. Matt Young said.

Blair was arrested in May by the department's Real Estate Fraud Unit after they learned he was renting out a property he didn't own.

Blair used the Craigslist Web site to advertise that he was renting out a north Natomas condominium. Blair had lived in the condo and was being evicted, Young said.

The man pretended to be the property's owner and collected thousands of dollars in security deposits and rent from at least four victims. He was in the midst of defrauding other people when he was arrested.

Police learned of the fraud when a potential tenant, who had heard of similar scams, contacted the Sacramento County Assessor's Office and learned that Blair didn't own the condo, Young said.

When detectives contacted the condo's true owner, they were told that all the checks Blair wrote to pay the rent had bounced and he was being evicted.

Blair also is awaiting extradition to Colorado, where he faces additional fraud charges. He is on probation in Florida for theft-related crimes and has an outstanding probation violation there, Young said.

As part of Blair's plea agreement in Sacramento, he will serve a year in jail and pay restitution to his victims.

The police department continues to receive similar complaints from residents in regard to advertising scams on Craigslist.

Police suggest that anyone who uses the site to locate rental property should also use reputable rental agencies and check with the county's assessor's office, Young said.

People also are advised not to pay in cash and to obtain identification from the person with whom they are doing business.

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