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Apartment scam fools students

Toronto Star - August 15, 2002
by John Deverell

It seemed too good to be true, and it was.

Ryerson students Daniella Constanzo and Vanessa Neshevich were trying to find downtown digs for the coming academic session.

One offering on the student housing Web site leaped out: a large one-bedroom apartment in a luxury building near Dundas St. W. and University Ave. for just $900 a month.

Amazed and thrilled, the young Oshawa duo enlisted parental guides and rushed late one evening to rendezvous with "Robert Reid" at 120 St. Patrick St. in the Village by the Grange. Reid welcomed them to apartment 1402 and showed it, drawing attention to the ensuitelaundry, the air conditioning, the cable hookup, and touting the building's swimming pool, billiard nook and exercise room. He chatted cleverly about the history of the development and its retail shops, and asked for a one-month deposit.

Constanzo and Neshevich returned a couple of days later, certified cheques in hand. In the interim Reid, as they asked, had faxed a document from the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services that seemed to confirm his ownership of condo 1402. Reid chatted easily as the young women measured the apartment windows for curtains, warned about the dangers of the nearby park, and offered to throw in the couch if they didn't mind its slight stains.

"It was such a great place, such a low price, such a great deal. It seemed like a miracle," recalls Neshevich.

Unfortunately, it was a swindle. The dream exploded last Friday when, as Constanzo tried to arrange telephone service, Bell Canada warned her there were already two applications pending for the same address.

The Oshawa women subsequently learned the condo had been sold effective Sept. 1 and neither buyer nor seller was named Reid.

Dave Arnold of Del Property Management, which looks after the development, has a theory for how the man gained entry to the condo unit. He speculates that "Reid" broke into a lockbox used by real estate agents to get the key. He said a police investigator from 52 Division has taken custody of video surveillance tapes from the condo complex. Police did not return The Star's calls.

"Reid was, as it turns out, such an animal," says an indignant Neshevich. She has been working this summer with both Big Brothers of Whitby and the Shrimp Cocktail restaurant to finance her studies. "He wasted our time and stole our money. We want him caught."

Alyssa Nguyen of London, Ontario, who similarly lost $1,000, said she's "a bit disappointed" in herself for being taken in but wonders how to avoid it. "I saw 30 places, but only three were reasonably priced," she said. "To get a good deal you have to sign right on the spot."

Nguyen is moving to Toronto after being given a promotion by a large telecom employer, and this week managed to find an acceptable apartment with near Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. for $1,050 a month. After talking to The Star, she was going to call Constanzo to let her know about another vacancy in the building.

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