BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — A Charlevoix man faces a felony criminal charge after police said he collected rent money for a Traverse City house he didn't own.
David L. Hunter, 38, is charged with a felony count of false pretenses between $1,000 and $20,000. He hadn't been arrested Friday.
Police said Hunter signed a month lease on a Wadsworth Street home this summer. He then put the home up for rent on the online classified site Craigslist and set up separate tours for potential renters.
He claimed to be the home's legal owner — or that he was in partnership with the owner — and signed several one-year lease agreements with the potential renters. He collected six $1,000 payments intended as security deposits, police said.
"The suspect leased the same property to six different groups of victims, taking money from all six groups," according to a police report.
All of the fake leases were supposed to start on Oct. 15, and one of the renters contacted police not long after that when they began to suspect the deal was a scam. Hunter was in contact with all parties and repeatedly provided excuses as to why they couldn't yet move in.
Police checked with the vacation rental group that rented the home to Hunter, and a woman there confirmed that Hunter had no authority to rent the property at all, let alone for a period of time past his lease.
Hunter returned money to only one set of victims, authorities said, and the rest lost their deposit. Grand Traverse Prosecutor Alan Schneider said he will request restitution payments if Hunter is convicted.
Hunter bucked a trend in that he was able to scam people despite meeting them in person. Most rental scammers make fake listings and solicit money from unsuspecting individuals over the Internet, authorities said, making them very difficult to track down.