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Super - and $70Gs - vanish

Toronto Sun - June 30, 1999
by Jackie Burns


Frances Larabee and her two babies will be homeless tomorrow after a dodgy superintendent scammed dozens of people out of rent deposits for occupied apartments.

Wiping away tears yesterday, Larabee, 24, said she'd given $1,700 cash to a superintendent named "John" for a unit in a four-storey building at 175 Cosburn Ave.

But she and about 50 other duped tenants have learned the apartments are not available and super "John" has disappeared with more than $70,000 in first- and last-month rents.

Now Larabee is broke and has no place to live with her two-year-old daughter and seven-month-old son.

"I'm devastated," she said.

Det.-Sgt. David Colwell said at least 50 people have filed complaints about super "John" who has disappeared.

Police said he showed prospective tenants whatever type of apartment they were interested in, and even showed his own apartment on occasion.

The tenants told police "John" toured the building with them and promised dinner parties and to "take care of them" once they moved in.

Larabee tried to get some answers yesterday from the wife of the building's owner, Hing Chan, only to be greeted with a simple "sorry" and the office door shut in her face.

"Sorry doesn't help people," she cried. "You go live on the streets and see how you like it."

Mitchell Beckford, 34, said he was in utter disbelief when he realized the man who told him "don't worry, I'll take care of you" had beat him for $1,320.

"He took care of us all right," Beckford said.

Colwell said the superintendent -- who signed the name John Norman and John Mohsen Hetazi on the rent receipts -- has pulled the same scam in the Vancouver area.

He said police believe he's Iranian and may have fled to his homeland with the cash. If that's the case, "we'll never get him," Colwell said.

He said calls are still flooding in from victims and he expects many more to show up with moving trucks tomorrow at the apartment building in the Pape and O'Connor area.

Unless he's caught, victims have no recourse but to file civil suits against the owner of the building, police said.

Chan said she and her husband are cooperating with police and were shocked by the actions of the man they hired to take care of the building about three years ago.

"I don't know where he is," she said. "I feel sorry about all this."


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