Victims of a Craigslist apartment rental scam who recently thought they might be returned some of their money learned Monday the accused is on the run.
On Friday, a $200,000 warrant was issued for the arrest of Rachael Marie Smith, 30, charged with stealing a total of $110,000 from nearly 20 would-be renters.
Smith allegedly advertised an Inner Richmond apartment for rent on Craigslist and collected deposit checks — some for $5,600 — with no intention of actually renting the place, prosecutors said.
Smith allegedly told some victims she had to care for her cancer-stricken mother, which meant she would not be able to leave the apartment for another month. But the victims never heard from her again, police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.
Police arrested Smith last year. Then last month, she was expected to accept a plea deal that would have included restitution to victims, according to prosecutors.
But Smith failed to show up to a June 8 court hearing, Assistant District Attorney Seth Steward said Monday. She also didn’t show up to a follow-up hearing Thursday or for the makeup Friday.
“She skipped town,” Steward said. “She’s running.”
That Smith has fled came as no surprise to one of the victims, who spoke to The San Francisco Examiner on Monday.
The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was frustrated that Smith was allowed to post bail and roam the streets while she was facing serious criminal charges.
“She’d have to be crazy to be hanging out here in the Bay Area,” the victim said. “For everything else that she may be, she’s certainly smart.”
Smith was arrested July 22, 2010, on charges that she bilked at least four would-be renters of a combined $20,000. Three months later, prosecutors amended their complaint and accused Smith of bilking 14 additional victims for a combined total of $110,000.
One of the victims, a 22-year-old woman, said she signed a lease for the apartment July 16, 2010, and gave Smith $5,600 for the deposit, Dangerfield said.
After Smith snubbed her, the woman learned that a co-worker also signed a lease for the same apartment and paid the deposit, Dangerfield said.
The two notified police through a lawyer. The lawyer told them he was handling complaints from other clients about Smith, police said.