JOPLIN, MO.--- An alleged housing scam is costing some Joplin residents thousands of dollars. Imagine sitting in your dream home with your loved ones when suddenly two strangers walk in. That's exactly what one man says happened to him. After just moving to Joplin, Scheldon Ward and his family thought they'd found their dream home. The only problem, five other families had the same dream.
"One day after we had officially moved in, some other people tried moving in, too. That's how we found out it was a scam," said Scheldon Ward, Joplin Resident.
Scheldon Ward thought his home on Jackson Street in Joplin was being broken into by burglars. It turns out, it was someone else who had a key and a lease that says they live at the same address.
"Obviously, he had rented the place out to multiple people. One night, we were sitting in our home and some people tried to come through the back door," said Ward.
After those strangers walked through the door, he and his unexpected guests exchanged stories. They had both seen the listing on Craigslist, met who they thought was the landlord, paid a deposit and first months rent, and had keys to move in.
"1750 dollars total. That's not what it cost to move there. We actually ended up moving twice. We actually paid a locksmith to get into the house because he gave us false keys," said Ward.
In total, Ward says he lost more than $2,000. Two other alleged victims who declined to go on camera say they also lost more than a thousand dollars each.
"He created this elaborate scheme that obviously he was telling five or six different people at a time," said Ward.
Ward says he has all the documents and has filed a police report. Detectives at the Joplin Police Department are still investigating this case. According to Corporal Detective Chuck Niess, a scam like this is not uncommon. However, this case is unique because it involves so many people.
"It usually doesn't advance that far as to multiple people trying to rent the same house. It's usually one person and then they've realized they've been scammed and then they've filed their police report. So the fact that there's several people involved in this one, makes it somewhat unusual," said Cpl. Detective Chuck Niess, Joplin Police Department.
"We've done our best to try to get something done, but obviously, he's still sitting in his home. Very fat on our money," said Ward.
The alleged victims did share with me the name of the person they say is responsible. After reaching out to him, he has declined to comment on the story. The real estate company that officially holds the title to the home declined to comment as well. Detectives say residents should be very cautious when using a website like Craigslist.