MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A 43-year-old Homestead woman who says she’s been a real estate broker for more than 20 years is charged with stealing rental deposits and mortgage payments and cheating nine victims out of thousands of dollars.
Miami-Dade Police say there could be more victims. One of them tells CBS4 she feels “betrayed.”
“Our concern is that there could be a lot more victims out there,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Romelio Martinez. “Our subjects have advertised in Spanish in flyers.”
Their company was named Real Estate Connection.
Martinez said some of the stolen mortgage payments from investors lead to foreclosures on their property.
Martinez said the broker, Gabriela Salguero, and her alleged accomplice who lives with her, 22-year-old Frank Peruggoria, are charged with Grand Theft and organized fraud.
Salguero’s picture is also on a storefront at 14707 South Dixie Highway.
“Salguero was able to go into vacant properties and show them and give people contracts and take their deposit money,” said Martinez. “And weeks later people looking for keys said these subjects were nowhere to be found.”
Salguero told police that she was addicted to cocaine and needed the money to support her habit.
One victim, 21-year-old Jennifer Gonzalez, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that she and her 19-year-old sister had hoped to move in to an apartment of their own in Kendall and contacted Salguero, who had advertised in Spanish in a number of publications including “El Clarin.”
“I felt really betrayed, like this should not have happened,” Gonzalez said. “I thought I was going to move in to apartment with my sister and it turned to garbage. It makes me mad. She asked for first and last month’s rent and a number of fees.”
Gonzalez said she paid a deposit of $1,350 plus $165 in additional fees only to discover that the apartment was not available and that she had been cheated.
“I had done everything to check her out,” she said. “I even searched her out and saw that she had a license and everything. She looked legit.”
During an appearance in bond court, it was revealed that Salguero has two children, had never been arrested and had been a real estate broker for more than 20 years.
Police say Salguero admitted to showing people vacant properties, providing contracts and taking money for deposits. Police say she admitted to her crimes, saying she knew she was doing something wrong and wanted to repay the victims.
Detectives say Peruggoria admitted that he was with Salguero during the crimes and was aware that she was involved with fraudulent activities.
An Assistant Public Defender noted that Salguero said she was “addicted to drugs.”
An Assistant State Attorney noted that she used the money for cocaine.
Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer expressed concern because of “all the people who relied on her” after paying rent.
Bond for Salguero was set at $16,000.
“That’s no excuse to say she was addicted to cocaine,” Gonzalez said. “That’s no excuse to be doing that.”
Gonzalez said she and her sister, “who works 3 jobs,” would have to save up money again to get an apartment. Until then, she will continue living with her mother in Southwest Miami-Dade.
“I want to get an apartment but next time I will not go through a broker,” she said.
Detective Martinez says if people think they have been victimized, they should call Miami-Dade Police. They can also call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS and their calls will be referred to Miami-Dade Police.