Convicted rental property scammer resurfaces on Kijiji
Patrick Miller pleaded guilty to defrauding 13 prospective renters earlier this year
A Calgary man with a history of defrauding people looking for a home to rent appears to be at it again.
Patrick Lawrence Miller was convicted of a rental fraud scam that involved more than a dozen victims this past January.
Now several people say he is at it again. Alaina Parkes posted an ad on Kijiji seeking a pet-friendly rental when she moved from Victoria to Calgary last December.
Miller responded, offering a home in the southwest community of Wildwood. Miller's girlfriend is listed as the registered owner of the home at 112 Windermere Road S.W.
Both Miller and his girlfriend were involved in negotiations and showing the home to Parkes and her partner.
"[They were] always for the most part quite charming," said Parkes.
Miller collected Parkes' $1,500 damage deposit only to tell her on the day she was supposed to move in that unexpected renovations had come up.
Two months later, Parkes still hadn't moved in.
CBC News contacted Miller for an interview, but he did not respond.
She began browsing Kijiji for other rentals when she says she found more people who claimed they made the same deal with Miller.
They paid the deposit only to be told the home was under emergency renovations. That's when Parkes went back to Miller, demanding her deposit back.
"He basically said he'd have it back to us in two days as long as we didn't go to the police," she said. "So we held off on going to the police until we got our money back."
Parkes says police told her she was not the first person to report Miller.
Court documents show he pleaded guilty to defrauding 13 people earlier this year for offences that occurred in June and July 2011.
Prior to his guilty plea, Miller was released on bail after his girlfriend put up her home as a surety.
The Crown prosecutor assigned to those files confirmed the victims told a story very similar to the one given to Parkes, which involved a damage deposit that was never returned in the cases of the 13 victims.
Disabled woman concerned
Sheron Hepburn's sister is on AISH and nearly signed a lease with Miller as well.
He contacted me a few times to sweeten the deal but I didn't respond.- Sheron Hepburn
A friend placed an ad on Kijiji on behalf of the developmentally disabled woman and her partner, seeking a rental suitable for the couple.
Miller responded and offered to show them a home.
The rent was too expensive for her sister, but Hepburn alleges Miller offered to lower it on the condition she pay for three months up front.
Parkes was able to warn Hepburn, who lives in Ontario before any money was sent.
"He contacted me a few times to sweeten the deal but I didn't respond," said Hepburn.
A spokesperson for Kijiji Canada confirms Parkes has been in touch with the company in an effort to prevent Miller from contacting others looking to rent a home in Calgary.
Shawn McIntyre says an account sent to Kijiji by Parkes has been blocked.
McIntyre encourages people to report potential fraudsters to Kijiji so the company can take measures.
"We did our best to get in touch with [Parkes] as quickly as we could because she had actually posted an ad," said McIntyre. "We prefer users reach out to us and give us as much information as they can so we can actually take action on our end so it was obviously very important to us to get more info about this case specifically."
McIntyre said Kijiji has been in touch with Calgary police and is prepared to co-operate if need be.
Police warn of rental scams
Const. Martin West with the economic crimes unit suggests meeting a landlord before signing anything, always paying by cheque and talking to the neighbours to avoid being scammed.
"Rental scams in Calgary are an every day event," said West.
"It's something we get complaints on almost weekly."
West said he is not surprised to hear people with pets and other vulnerable groups were targeted.
"Fraudsters are experts at looking for groups that are vulnerable and they're the people they look at to take their money," he said.