CREATED Aug. 14, 2013
PALM SPRINGS - Boxes packed and a van full outside their small apartment in Palm Springs, the Garcia family was ready to move to their new home just a few miles away on Volturno Road. They thought they found the perfect home online.
"We decided to look for a house, so I went on the Internet found Zillow and there was a house for $1,000," said 16-year-old Rolando Garcia.
The picture of the property listed on Zillow did not match the exterior of the actual house, but the Garcias didn't question it. They contacted the man who listed the property for rent, supposed "William Finkley".
"I contacted the guy through email and he responded back. We did all these emails back and forth," explained Rolando.
Via email, Finkley told the family they were approved to rent the house and asked them to wire him $1,000 in New York. The family sent the money, and a few days later, they still hadn't received the keys to the house. Rolando kept emailing Finkley asking for the keys, but he never got a response back. That's when the family realized it was a scam.
"I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else. This person left us ruined. We don't have the money to go someplace else," said the father Sixto Garcia in perfect Spanish, "People should be cautious when they go online and verify who they're speaking with."
The family, torn, went to Realty Executives in Palm Springs, which is listing the property for rent for the home's real owner. Escrow One Executive, Jackie Ludwick, met with Sixto and his wife to go over the situation.
"It's unfortunate that they contacted somebody who obviously exists but does not own the property. The owner is a very nice gentleman and would never do something like this. This is just sad that this has happened to them," expressed Ludwick.
She and the real estate agent who is in charge of renting the property filed a complaint for real estate fraud to the Riverside County District Attorney's office.
"They've already contacted us and their assigning it to a deputy district attorney who will look into to see if the law has been broken," added Ludwick, "We think it has. This is the third time on this property that there's been some sort of scam."
Sixto borrowed money to cover rent for this month, so the Garcia family remains in the apartment. They are still looking at other rental options so they can move to a bigger home.
Ludwick opened a bank account for the family through Wells Fargo. Anyone wanting to donate can go to any Wells Fargo branch and deposit to the "Gonzalez Family Donation Account."
"We hope something good happens along the way. We have nothing right now," said Rolando.