A former Major League pitcher and current minor league pitching coach featured in a recent NBC 5 Investigates report has won a victory: the recovery of the $2,700 he and his wife paid to someone who turned out to be a fake landlord.
John Ely, who grew up in Chicago’s south suburbs and pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers, said Chase Bank recovered the money after our December report on his ongoing battle with the identity thief.
“It was a really big deal for us and we couldn’t be happier about it. It was really generous on their part,” Ely said.
A spokesperson for Chase said the bank is “happy that, in this rare instance, the customer’s funds were recovered.”
Last January, Ely and his then-fiancé, Kelly, used Craigslist to find an apartment in Phoenix for White Sox spring training. The couple soon received a rental agreement from the so-called landlord, who asked Ely and Kelly to send $2,700 and photos of their personal identification.
The couple said their friends in Phoenix drove past the rental property and the rental agreement seemed legitimate. But after sending their money and copies of their IDs, the couple said they never heard from the landlord again.
“Unfortunately, with everything else going on, kind of ignored some of the red flags,” Ely said.
Ely said the imposter started using his baseball credentials to carry-out the fraudulent apartment rental scheme. According to Ely, he would hear from up to ten people a month asking if he was the landlord.
One prospective renter, Jenna Verrengia, said she recently moved to Austin and sent $2,000 to the imposter.
“At the time, this guy was too believable,” Verrengia said.
Verrengia also said she had difficulties getting Bank of America to approve her claim.
NBC 5 Responds contacted Bank of America to inquire about Verrengia’s claim and a spokesperson later confirmed the bank was able to recoup partial funds for her.
“I know all your efforts have helped and maybe one day I will get another call saying the remaining $1,000 was recovered as well,” Verrengia said.
The spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds that Bank of America is continuing to work on Verrengia’s behalf to see if it can recoup the rest of the money for her.
“Bank of America is committed to ensuring customers are aware of potential scams, including reminding them that Zelle is intended for sending funds to friends, family or people you know,” the spokesperson said.
Chase Bank said it urges customers to only send money to people they know and trust.
On its website, Craigslist said consumers should always deal face-to-face and refuse background checks until meeting a landlord in person.
Meantime, it appears Ely’s warning to other consumers to watch out for the identity thief is already helping people.
Alyssa Anderson of Washington D.C. said she was using Craigslist to search for an apartment in Nashville and after finding one she liked, she unknowingly communicated with the fake landlord.
“It seemed pretty legit,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she nearly sent her money until the imposter requested a cash deposit. Additionally, Anderson read NBC 5’s online report on the fraudulent apartment rental scheme.
“This has been going on for months and people keep getting duped by this guy, like, why can’t we do anything about it?” Anderson said.
It’s still not clear who’s behind the fraudulent rental scam. But Ely said there is enough evidence to prove similarities in every story.
“If law enforcement could step in, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t,” Ely said.
If you are a victim, the FTC said you can file a complaint at www.identitytheft.gov and your local law enforcement. The FBI also takes complaints on the website www.ic3.gov.