A former California real estate agent was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly taking over foreclosed homes in Contra Costa County that weren’t his and renting them out to unsuspecting tenants, authorities said.
Alfonso Salazar, 62, a Martinez resident, is accused of moving in on foreclosed homes, having the locks changed and renting them out to tenants who didn’t realize he didn’t own the properties, prosecutor Ken McCormick said.
Salazar’s scheme involved at least 20 properties in Walnut Creek, Brentwood, Antioch and Hercules, authorities said.
Prosecutors filed charges against Salazar on Friday, but didn’t know where he lived. But when investigators were searching one of the Brentwood properties for evidence later that day, they got a big surprise.
“Lo and behold, (Salazar) rolled right up” and was arrested, McCormick said.
Salazar allegedly posted signs on foreclosed properties telling the owners that unless they objected, the homes would be taken over by the National Alliance of Homeowners for Justice, a Southern California mortgage counseling organization with which he was employed.
If he didn’t get a response, Salazar had the locks changed and posted the properties for rent on Craigslist, McCormick said.
Salazar used his status as a former licensed real estate agent to appear legitimate to potential tenants. His license expired in 2011.
“Any con man is charming and gregarious, and this guy is a professional,” McCormick said. “People felt confident in renting from him.”
Salazar is being held in lieu of $180,000 bail. He faces nine felony counts, including grand theft by false pretenses and burglary.
Rental fraud schemes aren’t uncommon, but they are usually simple, one-time schemes, McCormick said.
“This is the most brazen and sophisticated of those schemes we’ve seen,” he said.