Cops bust alleged Craigslist rental scam
A 21-year-old San Francisco man has been arrested for allegedly setting up a Craigslist rental scam for a Hercules home that was sold earlier this week, police said today.
A woman called Hercules police on Tuesday morning to report that she believed she had been the victim of a rental scam after responding to a Craigslist ad for a four-bedroom home in the 1900 block of Pheasant Drive, Hercules police Det. Connie Van Putten said.
The woman met up with a young man who showed her the home on Monday and said he was managing the investment property for his father, according to Van Putten.
After voicing her interest in renting the house and filling out a credit application, the man asked for a $1,500 security deposit, which she agreed to give at a later time.
Later the woman discussed the rental home with a friend who is a realtor. The friend told the woman that the home was up for sale and not likely for rent, prompting her to call police.
Police said investigators determined that the home’s real owner had sold it on Monday.
Police Tuesday also heard from a second woman who said she believed she had been the victim of a rental scam involving the same home and same suspect, who had asked her to meet him in Richmond Tuesday night to give $1,500 security deposit.
Working with police, the first victim set up a Tuesday night meeting at the rental home, saying she would bring the security deposit.
Police arrived to stake out the house around 8:30 p.m. and saw the suspect drive up and park across the street from the house, then drive away before the victim arrived.
Officers stopped the suspect a short distance away on a traffic violation and with the victim’s help, were able to positively identify him as the man involved in the rental scam.
Inside his car officers found completed rental applications from four different people as well as a ‘For Sale’ sign and brochures that had been taken from inside the home, Van Putten said.
The suspect, identified as Gino Eckstein, was arrested on suspicion of renting property under false pretenses, burglary, possession of stolen property and identity theft.
He was also arrested for allegedly committing a felony while out on bail for a prior felony since he was recently incarcerated in San Francisco County Jail on felony charges.
He is being held in county jail in Martinez on $395,000 bail.
Van Putten said police believe Eckstein may have victimized other would-be renters.
Anyone who believes they may have been victims of the same rental scam and had contact with a man posing as “Eric” or “Eric Stegner” about renting a house are asked to call Hercules police Detective Pesmark at (510) 799-8223 or Hercules police dispatch at (510) 724-1111.