Easton police put one man behind bars for fraud but now reveal they still haven't found all the victims. Investigators say he ran a big money real estate scheme that preyed on "would be" homeowners, many of them contacted Hank Phillippi Ryan.
All Michelle and Thomas wanted was a home of their own…a couple of bedrooms, a back yard for the kids.They were tired of renting in the suburbs but they didn't have enough money for a down payment on a house.
Then Michelle saw this website – Rent2OwnConnnect – which explained how they could use rent money toward buying a house!
She filled out a form and got a response from this man, Josh Leventhal, who promised to make her dream come true.
Michelle:"He promised me that I would be put into a home that I could rent to own."
Michelle met Leventhal in a coffee shop. He asked for $2,000 upfront, told her to choose a house that was for sale and then he'd negotiate the rent-to-own deal.
Michelle:"I wanted to buy a home and I thought this was a solution."
She wrote the check and she says that was the last she saw of Leventhal. Instead of a new home – all she has now is stacks of useless paperwork and excuse-filled emails from Leventhal. And she's not the only one.
Victoria, who lives in Boston, says the same thing happened to her.
Victoria: We gave him a total of 5800
Hank: And what did he do for you?
Victoria: Nothing. He took our money and ran.
At the Mass AG's Office, we found more than a dozen complaints about Leventhal who doesn't even have a real estate license! "I paid for his service and got nothing." "He never answers the phone or returns any calls." "We've gotten nothing but empty promises." "I want my money back!" As we were investigating Leventhal, so were Easton police.
Hank:You have been working on this for months?
Detective Jack Lynn, Easton Police:Correct
Detective Jack Lynn went undercover emailing Leventhal, posing as a potential customer. When Leventhal took the bait and offered to close the rent-to-own deal. Police armed with this search warrant – went to his Easton home and arrested him. They seized all this from inside: Laptop computers, cell phones, money orders and real estate contracts.
They say it's evidence that proves Leventhal's so-called business was operating illegally.
Hank: Did he show any signs of stopping?
Detective Jack Lynn, Easton Police:No. I believe this was his main source of income. So I believe that was how he was making money.
Now Leventhal is charged with 10 counts of larceny by false pretense. In plain English? He took money – and made promises – but did nothing.
Hank:Are you aware of anyone who paid him that actually got a home?
Chief Allen Krajcik, Easton Police:No I am not
Hank: Not anyone?
Chief Allen Krajcik, Easton Police:No.
Police think there are dozens of victims who lost as much as $8000 each, money they could not afford to lose.
Chief Allen Krajcik, Easton Police:"A lot of them had lost their homes and were unemployed and were desperate to find other housing and they saw an opportunity and they thought it was a good offer and they went for it."
Police believe there are many other victims – not just in Massachusetts but across the country. And now they're working to find them. If you think you've been taken contact the detectives at the Easton Police Department.