Paul Vencatasawmy, Fake Real Estate Agent, Scams Buyers Out Of $250,000 With Open Houses In Foreclosed Homes

05/24/2012 04:19 pm ET
  • Harry Bradford Associate Editor, HuffPost Business and HuffPost Small Business

One real estate scammer in Florida seems to have taken the term “open house” a little too literally.

Paul Vencatasawmy allegedly raised $250,000 by posing as a real estate agent and collecting down payments for houses he didn't have the right to sell, local news station WFTV reports. Vencatasawmy and his team of employees allegedly held open houses in foreclosed or vacant homes throughout Central Florida and used his “nice guy” demeanor in an aim to dupe potential buyers, according to one man who “fell in the trap.”

Vencatasawmy may have a novel approach to scheming homeowners, but the idea isn't unique. Mortgage scams have gone up 60 percent already this year, in part because schemers are using February's national $25 billion mortgage fraud settlement to get struggling homeowners to buy into programs thinking that they're going to receive some of the federal money.

Notable scammers include Deo Buddhu of Connecticut who allegedly promised homeowners access to federal aid money then proceeded to collect an upfront fee, while at the same time telling his victims to stop talking with their banks. The scam has been a boon for Buddhu, but it’s resulted in foreclosure for those on the losing end of the deal. Using a similar ploy, a Utah man funded his wife’s plastic surgery by duping about 200 homeowners out of up to $3,000.

Scams have come in other forms as well. A retired New York Police Department sergeant was recently arrested for copping $4.7 million from investors for a bogus real estate project, the New York Daily News reports. And in New Jersey, apartment seekers are falling prey to emails that advertise unrealistic deals in the hopes of enticing renters into a down payment without face-to-face contact, NBC 40 reports. After the scammers received the money, they allegedly stopped communicating with the renters.