The Craigslist ad listed a room for rent in Bayport for $600 a month. The landlady even offered a signed receipt for the security deposit.
But before people could move in, the landlady's excuses began. The room wasn't ready. It was no longer available. And she refused to return the prospective renters' deposits, police said.
Virginia Wimmer, 40, pulled the scam again and again, Suffolk police said on Tuesday, raking in more than $3,000 from at least five prospective renters in the past year.
Police arrested Wimmer, of Bayport, on Monday, charging her with felony first-degree scheme to defraud, authorities said.
Wimmer also goes by the name Virginia Montemurro, according to police., In 2017, she left her job as a math teacher at Connetquot High School in Bohemia after 18 years, school officials said.
According to the court complaint, Wimmer admitted that regarding her prospective renters, she "never rented the room or returned their money."
Wimmer's attorney, Peter Mayer, responded on Tuesday to the statement saying, "That's what they said she said. She pled not guilty today."
Wimmer was arraigned Tuesday in First District Court in Central Islip, and bail was set at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond.
Jessica Oscarsson said she thought something was suspicious when she put down a $600 cash deposit in April to rent a room from Wimmer and an extra $100 to paint it.
"She didn't ask me any questions … where I worked, no proof of income, no references," said Oscarsson, 29, of Shirley.
But Oscarsson and her fiancee were expecting a baby soon, and they needed to find a place quickly. Then came several disagreements with Wimmer, Oscarsson said, and a strange late-night phone call from the landlady asking for more money. Weeks went by, Oscarsson said, until she realized Wimmer was not going to rent her the room or return the $700.
So she spoke to the Suffolk County police. They told her the disagreement with Wimmer was a civil matter but when Oscarsson asked if police would investigate if there were more victims, they replied yes, she said.
Next, she took to social media, posting her story on Facebook and asking for more victims to come forward. A handful did but others chose not to, she said.
Suffolk County police said that once there were multiple victims, it was determined it was an ongoing criminal scheme.
Lequisha Caccavale also said she needed to quickly find a place to live. Caccavale said she was going through a divorce in April of last year when she saw Wimmer's ad on Craigslist for an apartment. The Calverton resident said she gave Wimmer $1,300 in cash but the landlady came up with numerous excuses to avoid signing a rental agreement — a flat tire, a relative had a heart attack.
Caccavale said Wimmer then tried to put her on the defensive, saying she was too aggressive and wouldn't make a good tenant.
"I said 'give me my money back.' I sent two registered letters," said Caccavale, 36. "She never responded to me."
After filing a police report, Caccavale said she saw Oscarsson's Facebook post.
Suffolk County police said Wimmer accepted payments of between $600 and $1,200 each from prospective renters after advertising the Gillette Avenue room on Craigslist between September 2017 and June 2018.
Her next court date is Friday.
Detectives asked anyone else who may be a victim to call them at 631-854-8552.