Wellington man, others charged with rental fraud, 80 or more homes hit

Handcuffs-ntFederal authorities said Monday they have charged three Palm Beach County men in an “elaborate fraud scheme” to take illegal possession of at least 80 homes and collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent deposits.

The men removed lockboxes and changed locks on renovated homes nearing completion, distributed flyers seeking renters “sometimes within hours” and used prepaid cell phones, officials said.

They arranged to meet would-be renters at the property and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars supposedly for the security deposit, as well as the first and last month’s rent, officials said. The scheme began in late 2014 and continued through this month, according to authorities.

Kesner Joaseus, 46, of Wellington, Wadno Dorneau, 36, of West Palm Beach, and Miguel Tilus, 54, of Lake Worth, were charged, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer said.

If convicted, they each face up to 20 years imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines and mandatory restitution on each count, according to Ferrer’s office.

An attorney for Dorneau declined comment. Others could not be reached.

A legitimate real estate investment trust based in Georgia, known as RHA 2 LLC and operating as HavenBrook homes, owns dozens of properties in Palm Beach and Broward counties that it leases out as single-family homes, federal officials said.  Joaseus, Dorneau and Tilus used a similar name, RHA Two LLC, to carry out their scheme, authorities said.

The fraud cost the legitimate company approximately $100,000 a month in rental income losses, prosecutors allege.

» MORE: Details on some of the homes involved in the scheme

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