Local News

Raleigh Woman Told She Was Victim Of Nationwide Housing Scam

Posted October 9, 2003 8:09 a.m. EDT

— A charming house on a tree-lined street seemed like the perfect fit for a Raleigh family. Then a mysterious landlord made off with their cash and they learned they were not the only victims.

Kendra Barnes thought she had found the perfect rental home for her family when she saw the four-bedroom house for rent in north Raleigh.

Barnes said the scam started with a newspaper ad that led her to a man named Leo who said his Seattle investment firm was renting out the house.

"I had no reason to think he wasn't legitimate," she said.

Leo mailed Barnes a lease on company letterhead and keys to the house. She wired the man a $685 deposit and started moving in.

Then a notice appeared on the front door.

"When I came back around, I saw a note on the door stating that the house is owned by


and a number to call," Barnes said.

The house was supposed to be vacant. Barnes called the number and learned she is one of 16 victims in North Carolina and that the scam is nationwide.

The lock on the rental home has been changed and Barnes' furniture is still inside. Barnes reported the scam to HUD and Raleigh police and told them everything she knows about Leo.

"I hope the Feds get him and really do hope he [serves] some time for this," she said.

Officials said Leo is in Puerto Rico. Barnes doubts she will get her $685 back, but hopes sharing her story will prevent someone else from being scammed.

HUD told Barnes someone will let her into the home to get her belongings. WRAL was contacted by another woman who says she lost $1,500 in a similar scam.


North Carolina Attorney General's Office

offers the following advice:

  • Whenever possible, do business with someone you know.
  • Do not be persuaded by flashy ads or Web sites, like the material Barnes got in the mail.
  • Never wire money to someone you do not know.
  • Check out a company by calling the Attorney General's office at (877) 5NO-SCAM.
  • .