Patricia Pitocchi thought it was odd when she found two cars in the driveway of the Golden Gate Estates home she was selling last month.
The house was supposed to be vacant.
Pitocchi, a real estate agent, called the Collier County Sheriff's Office, and responding deputies learned a family rented the home from a man who said he owned it.
But that wasn't true. The fraudulent landlord was later identified as Yoandry Leiva, 21, of the 2300 block of 55th Terrace Southwest, Golden Gate — a man who had been arrested just in April on accusations that he was fraudulently renting out vacant or foreclosed homes to turn a profit.
On Tuesday, Leiva was returned to a jail cell and accused in four more cases of fraudulent rentals between February and April. He faces eight felony counts of grand theft and burglary, in addition to the April charges.
According to his renters, Leiva also went by the names of Roberto Pandoja, Joe Green and Diego Dalto. They told authorities they learned of the homes from handwritten notes posted around town. Because the leases are not valid, at least seven people in the four homes will be kicked out, according to arrest reports.
"They were very, very upset, very worried and very anxious when we discovered this," Pitocchi said of the family living at a home in the 5100 block of Coral Wood Drive, which her client owns. "But they did work with us and the owner decided that she's a very kind person and felt that they had been victims and she would allow them to execute a lease with her until they could find a legitimate place."
Emanoel Thermitus, who rented a home from Leiva in April, also was given a second chance when she learned she and her three boys would be kicked out of the home they were living in. A North Naples man who read about Thermitus in the Daily News offered to let her family stay in a vacant home he owned in Golden Gate Estates.
"I always wanted to stay in a good neighborhood in a little house with a little backyard," Thermitus said at the time. "But now I have a huge house with a big backyard. And a front yard. It's unbelievable for someone to do that."
Others likely were not so lucky. Leiva is accused of leasing other homes on 55th Street Southwest, 27th Court Southwest and Fifth Avenue Southwest, all in Golden Gate or Golden Gate Estates, according to arrest reports.
After his April arrest on similar charges, Leiva posted his $80,000 bond on June 13, according to Naples Jail Center records. He was out of jail for less than a week before his most recent arrest.
Avoiding rental scams
To avoid falling victim to rental scams:
■ Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
■ Never provide someone with sensitive information like your bank account number or Social Security number.
■ Avoid transactions involving individuals based in countries known for scamming, such as Nigeria or Malaysia.
■ Never rent a home or condo without seeing the interior first.
■ Do not submit to a background check for a home without meeting the owner in person.
Source: Collier County Sheriff’s Office