COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — It was supposed to be the Gray family's new dream home in a brand-new state, but the deal they thought they were getting turned out to be too good to be true.
"I'm out $2,700 now," Antoin Gray said Tuesday.
He and his wife, Shawnta, are heartbroken and angry after falling for what they say was a rental scam.
"We put down our deposit, and then I put down the first month's rent. And then, all of a sudden, things went left field," Antoin said.
The 14-year veteran of the U.S. Navy recently got a new job that required him to move from Oklahoma to Colorado. He says he went on Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN), a popular website for military personnel, to help find a home here.
That's when he came across a listing for a four-bedroom home in Commerce City that was going for only $1,500 a month.
"I looked at the prices. I said, "That's not a bad price. I can afford that per month and all,"" Antoin said.
They came out to visit the home and even toured it after the alleged landlord gave them the code to go inside.
When Denver7 visited the property Tuesday, a sign outside from Opendoor, not AHRN, indicated the home was for sale.
"[We] went in, saw the place, loved it," Antoin said.
After signing the lease and paying the first month's rent of $1,500, plus a $1,000 security deposit, the landlord then asked them to pay $700 for a locksmith on move-in day. That disturbed Antoin.
"Never in my life [have] I had to pay a locksmith when I'm renting a place," he said.
Because he had already moved his wife and three kids to Colorado and had nowhere else to stay, he gave the man an additional $200. But the landlord then said he'd found the family another home minutes away that wouldn't require a locksmith fee.
It turns out it was listed by an entirely different landlord and company, as was the first house they toured.
"When we called and we talked to the person, the person's like, "He doesn't work here. He's not the owner... That's all fake. You just got scammed,"" Antoin said.
The landlord has since stopped returning their calls. More than a week later, the Gray family is now living in hotels, out nearly $3,000 and defeated.
"It's heartbreaking that someone could actually do this," Shawnta said.
Denver7 contacted the man claiming to be the landlord. He goes by the name of Fabio Meza. After Denver7's Pattrik Perez began questioning him by phone, he hung up.
"This is cruel. It's not only cruel to me, it's cruel to my kids. It's cruel to my wife," Antoin said.
Now, they want to warn others, as they continue looking for a home that fits their budget and needs — one that they'll hopefully be able to call their own soon.
Denver7 reached out to Opendoor, the company listing the first house. A spokesperson said Fabio Meza has never worked for the company and that its properties are never available for rent. A spokesperson for American Homes 4 Rent, the company listing the second home, also confirmed Meza has never worked for them.
The couple has filed a police report with the Commerce City Police Department. They've also started a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise money to find a new home. To donate, click here.
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