Police say a recently arrested fraud suspected swindled people out of money through false car advertisements and Craigslist rental ads.
Eric Pittsley, 35, of Newman Lake, was arrested Feb. 1 in an investigation that detectives say includes at least 17 victims, officials said today.
Some victims said Pittsley introduced himself as an auto repo man who could get various cars at 'unbelievably” low prices, according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. The victims would paid Pittsley a deposit of about $500 and arranged to have a vehicle delivered, but it would never arrive, Chamberlin wrote.
Other victims responded to a Craigslist ad Pittlsey posted regarding home for rent through a Rent-to-Own program, or Pittsley contacted them through ads they posted seeking rental properties, according to the sheriff's office.
Pittsley did not own the home he advertised but would meet with potential renters, tell this them the homes were about to be vacated and collected the first month's rent and security deposit. He sometimes asked for additional months upfront and said they could get one month free if they paid, Chamberlin said. Many victims received a signed lease and key, but the keys turned out not to work for the properties in question.
“The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Spokane Valley Police Department would like to use these unfortunate events to remind everyone that they need to be aware of scams and to be cautious of people who place free ads on the internet,” Chamberlin wrote. “While the internet is a great tool for the community to find excellent opportunities and for businesses to reach out, when it comes to your money changing hands, the proper paperwork should accompany the transaction or agreements entered into. When paying in cash always ask for receipts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check around if you’re unsure. Ask for references or ask others who have experience in the type of dealings you’re pursuing.”