Craigslist scammer admits to bilking would-be San Francisco renters

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

The slippery Craigslist scammer who bilked $110,000 dollars from 18 would-be apartment renters in San Francisco admitted to the allegations in court Monday after turning herself into authorities about two weeks ago, according to prosecutors.

Rachael Marie Smith, 30, pleaded guilty to three counts of grand theft as part of a deal with prosecutors that will land her in prison for two years and will require her to pay back all 18 of her victims.

Last year, Smith advertised her Inner Richmond apartment for rent on Craigslist and collected first month’s rent and deposit checks — some for $5,600 — with no intention of actually renting the place.

She 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 has said.

Police arrested Smith last year. But in June, when she was first expected to accept a plea deal, Smith failed to show up to court. After missing several subsequent court dates, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.

At the time, duped renters told The San Francisco Examiner they believed Smith was a clever con who would never be found. She surrendered to authorities Aug. 16 and remains in custody.

While Smith was initially charged with 18 grand theft counts, the deal allowed her to plead guilty to only three. Still, prosecutors said as part of the plea deal she admitted to ripping off 18 would-be renters and will have to pay them all back.

“This plea deal will hopefully bring some closure to the victims in this case,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.

She will be sentenced Oct. 19. She will likely have to start paying back victims after she serves her prison sentence, prosecutors said.

Smith was initially arrested July 22 of last year 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 total $110,000.

One of the victims, a 22-year-old woman, said she signed a lease for the apartment July 16 of last year, 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.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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