Two people who allegedly bilked more than 20 apartment renters out of more than $60,000 pleaded not guilty Tuesday to fraud and grand larceny charges after being indicted in a "too good to be true" Manhattan rental scam.
Jennifer York, 27, and Matthew Wada, 36, both of Manhattan, are accused of renting posh apartments for short-term stays in midtown, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and the East Village, then offering the flats for long-term lease via Craigslist and Bazarynka.com, a website serving the Polish community, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.
Victims were told Wada was the landlord and paid anywhere from $150 to $4,500 in security deposits before discovering they had been scammed, the district attorney's office said.
"Many of the victims were young, first-time New Yorkers who believed they had signed a legitimate lease only to find out when attempting to move in that their new apartment was already occupied," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
York, who was released on $5,000 bail, "was in a weakened condition. [Wada] used this poor girl," said her attorney, David I. Goldstein of upstate Chestnut Ridge. Goldstein said that York had no previous convictions or arrests, but was beset by "her own demons." He also expressed hope that a plea agreement involving restitution to the victims could be arranged.
The attorney for Wada, who remains in jail on $250,000 bond or $100,000 cash, could not be reached for comment.
"Renters seeking apartments through unlicensed brokers and real estate agents should be on alert for unscrupulous individuals seeking to take advantage in this crowded real estate market," Vance said.