A couple met with Patrick Mallory on a Sunday afternoon in August to look at his property near the intersection of Bascom and Hamilton avenues.
"They presented themselves as being upstanding citizens and talked to me for about an hour and a half," Mallory said.
The homeowner had lived in the Campbell house nearly a decade ago. He relocated almost 100 miles away and has since rented it out.
On that Sunday, rather than making another 100-mile trip, Mallory decided to go against his usual procedure and sign a rental agreement with the couple.
"I took a personal check and gave them a key. A big mistake," he said.
The couple, Timothy August and Monica Perretta lived rent-free for three months and cost Mallory nearly $10,000 to finally evict. He is one of six known victims that August and Perretta allegedly scammed.
Since 2008, the two suspects have been allegedly swindling landlords in Campbell, San Jose and Morgan Hill out of rent; nearly $30,000.
The couple was arrested on Dec. 14 and charged with multiple counts of theft by false pretenses and passing bad checks. Their next court appearance is Dec. 20. If convicted on all counts, they face a maximum term of six years, four months of incarceration.
According to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Victor Chen, the couple would start off by renting a home with a monthly rent of between $2,000 and $2,600. They would secure a rental agreement, usually a one-year lease, by providing fraudulent W-2s and credit reports, and stay there for about four to six months without paying rent.
From there, Chen said the two would give the homeowner a personal check for first month's rent and the security deposit. This check would bounce, then the two would stall until the landlord would begin the eviction process.
However, as soon as the landlord began this process, the DAs Office stated in a release, one of the suspects would then file for bankruptcy to stay the eviction, usually tacking on another six to eight weeks of unpaid rent.
"Eventually, the bankruptcy would be dismissed," Chen said. "But before the landlord could resume the eviction process, the other defendant would file for bankruptcy which caused more delay. They had a system."
August and Perretta stayed out of criminal courts until Mallory came forward.
"Instead of twisting in the wind wondering when I would stop bleeding, I started taking steps to get them punished," he said.
Chen credits Mallory's persistence in the charges and arrests of the suspects.
"These victims have reported it to the police but the police typically feels this is a civil case," Chen said. "But it wasn’t until that we realized the same pattern from the same people, that’s when this becomes a criminal case."
The most egregious aspect of this case, Chen said is that not only did the suspects allegedly live rent free but also profitted from the landlords by renting out rooms for between $700 and $900 each.
According to Chen, the day before the suspects were arrested they had just rented out a room to a victim, who paid $900 in cash and was still moving in.
"It's kind of sad," Chen said. "Now that person has to find a place to live before Christmas."
Mallory said he has lost about $10,000 in the three months that the suspects rented his property. The home's backyard and wood floors were destroyed by the couple's pit bulls. But the landlord sees the bright side of things.
"It was a harsh lesson," he said. "But their arrest is a cause to rejoice because the kinds of things they do to people are the kinds of things that not only take materials away but also makes for unrest in the family."
The DA's office encourages anyone that feels they may have been similarly victimized or have information, to contact Victor Chen at 408-792-2665 or email@example.com.