BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - A four-bedroom house in a family-friendly neighborhood in Blue Springs became the bait in a scam that fleeced several families out of thousands of dollars, victims of the plot said.
Earlier this fall, the home's occupant, posing as the owner, advertised the house as a rental on Craigslist. At least five families sent her deposit checks of $1,250 or more, which she cashed before skipping town.
Now Blue Springs Police are investigating and several families who believed they'd found their dream home are out of luck and out thousands of dollars.
One such unlucky family-- the Niccoli's-- who thought the house would be a perfect fit for their five children, sent a deposit check in August to secure an October 1 move-in.
"It sounded like a great deal," Danielle Niccoli said on Thursday. "She was renting it pretty cheap -- not too cheap that we thought anything about it-- but she seemed to want to work with us so it sounded like a great deal."
But as moving day approached, something changed.
"She wouldn't return our phone calls or answer our text messages and we didn't have a lease signed. Then we knew something was up," she said.
When the woman who had posed as the owner disappeared days later, the Niccoli's knew they'd been had. They moved into Danielle's mother's basement and started looking for houses again.
Meanwhile, the house's actual owner Jamie Stidhem began to hear from other would-be renters who had sent checks to the woman who posed as the owner.
Stidhem and Blue Springs police said five other families have come forward since the Niccoli's, all claiming to have lost money.
One man, Stidhem said, claimed to have sent two months' rent in addition to his deposit and paid thousands more to break his lease at his old home.
For the Niccoli's, the story had a happy ending. Since they were the first to lose their money, Stidhem agreed to rent the house to them, starting November first.
The other families will have to continue their home search, while Blue Springs authorities continue their investigation.