Man accused of pretending to be landlord to scam Westchester County victims out of money

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Naveen Dhaliwal spoke exclusively with one of the victims.

Authorities arrested a man accused of pretending to be a landlord and stealing money from unsuspecting victims in Westchester County.

Officers with the Mount Pleasant Police Department said they arrested 43-year-old Jeffrey Pena, of Thornwood, on Thursday.

Authorities say he would find his victims by passing out fliers at laundromats around the county, even showing up and soliciting people.

Police say he would collect two months of rent as a deposit, claim the apartment was no longer available and then refuse to return the money.

Pena allegedly targeted undocumented immigrants and would threaten to notify immigration officials if the victims asked for a refund.

"This is such a good deal, it's a cheap apartment," said Michelle Beltran, a nursing student who thought she found the perfect gem, a basement apartment in a home in Thornwood.

The owner was Pena.

"He was like, in the back of my house we have a pool and a barbecue you guys can use it whenever you want," she said, speaking exclusively with Eyewitness News.

She put down the deposit for $1700. But after the move in date came and went the red flags popped up, and a warning on Facebook about a guy taking deposits for an apartment in Thornwood and not following through.

"I was completely shocked, I can't believe I just got scammed," said Beltran. "There were three people who are supposed to move in the same day I was supposed to move in."

The suspect has been under investigation since 2017 and is facing eight counts of scheme to defraud.

So far 10 victims have come forward but investigators say they are confident there are a lot more out there.

Police are asking any other potential victims to come forward -- regardless of their citizenship status.

Anyone with information is asked to call the department at (914) 741-2386.

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Related Topics:
fraudscamreal estateapartmentMount PleasantWestchester County
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