Miami woman arrested after 2 targeted in Little Havana rental scam, police say

A Miami woman who posed as a real estate agent was arrested Wednesday for her role in a rental scam in Little Havana — and another suspect remains at large, authorities said.

Valerie Valentina Meza-Faublack was charged with two counts of third-degree grand larceny, organizing a scheme to defraud and operating real property without a license, according to court records. The 21-year-old has been behind bars at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center since Thursday night after pleading not guilty in court earlier that day.

The scam, first reported by WPLG Local 10 News, began when Miguel Cruz Perez saw an ad in late February in the Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Americas for a one-bedroom apartment for rent at 1400 NW 3rd St. in Little Havana, according to Meza-Faublack’s revised arrest report.

Miami-Dade County property appraiser records show the property is owned by 1400 At Marlins LLC, which in turn is registered to real estate firm Metro Consulting & Management, Inc. Metro had not responded to the Miami Herald’s request for comment as of Wednesday night. Neither company is listed in the report.

When Cruz Perez called the number in the ad, according to Miami police, a woman who said her name was Hamada answered, setting up a meeting for three days later on February 28. Police say he told Cruz Perez he was a real estate agent, and to bring $4,050 for the security deposit, first and last month’s rent at an office building at 80 SW 8th St. #2000 in Brickell. There, Hamanda told Cruz Perez he would pick up the keys to the apartment on March 1, police say.

But when Cruz Perez arrived at the apartment, Hamada wasn’t there with the keys. Instead, police say, Maria Ramirez and an unnamed third person arrived saying he had rented the same apartment to them.

The team went to Brickell’s office to find out what was going on, according to the report. As they told each other what happened, police say they had similar stories: two Latina women were renting the same apartment and they each had to pay $4,050 to get the keys.

Ramirez said a woman who identified herself as Natalia, a real estate agent, gave her a tour of the apartment, investigators said. Police say Hamanda showed Cruz Perez the apartment, and even took a picture with him.

“During the showing of the apartment all parties (victims and accused) were present,” police said in the report. “However, when the rent and security deposit money was collected, the two victims handed over their cash to both defendants on separate dates.”

Police noted in the report that an employee at the Brickell building told the group that the office is rented out for meetings by people who have memberships. Neither Hamanda nor Natalia are listed as members, police say.

Cruz Perez identified Meza-Faublack as Hamanda in a photo lineup on March 28, according to investigators. Three days later, Ramirez identified “Natalia,” police say.

On Wednesday, police say Meza-Faublack arrived at a police station for a scheduled appointment with detectives and agreed to speak with them without an attorney present. What he told them, however, was redacted from the police report. He was then arrested and taken to the detention center.

As for Natalia, whose real name is also listed in the report, she remains at large, according to Meza-Faublack’s arrest report.

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