Twelve families scammed in Largo home rental fraud, police say

- Police are searching for a couple who defrauded 12 families into paying a fake deposit for the same Largo home.

The suspects, Nicole and David Johnson, were identified by the Largo Police Department, but it appears they have fled to New York, the agency said.

Police said the Johnsons portrayed themselves as the owner of the home at 1091 Lexington Court and entered into false leasing agreements with the families. Police said they received large deposits, ranging from $1,000 to $4,300 per family.

The total loss for the victims is at least $25,000. 

Tremain Johnson, who is not related to the suspected scammers, was one of the victims. 

"I have three kids. I'm a single mom and we are living in a hotel right now," she said. "Now I have no home!"

Law enforcement arrived at the home after Tremain and three other families showed up around the same time to move in.

One of the families traveled from Indiana with all of their possessions inside a U-Haul trailer.

"I don't know how you go to bed at night, knowing that you took money not just from my family, but other families. Had a family from Indiana came down with two dogs and a cat," Tremain said.

Neighbors of the house helped gather enough gas money for the family to return to Indiana.

Police said other families had to “scramble in order to find a place to live,” according to the media release.

Police said the suspects used Facebook and other social media sites searching for victims who need a rental property. They solicited victims and gave in-person tours of the home.

The names provided by the suspects to the victims matched tax and property appraiser records, police said.

The victims say the suspected scammers stalled their move-in dates to coordinate with the date they would flee from Florida.

Anyone who may have been scammed by the Johnsons is asked to call Detective Young at (727) 587-6757 or Detective Allred at (727) 586-7475. Both are with the Largo Police Department. 
Additional details are expected to be released at a 2:30 p.m. press conference with the agency.

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