The Korea Herald


Rental fraudster’s ‘luxury life’ sparks anger

Victims outraged over a scammer’s lavish US lifestyle with money they couldn’t get back

By Choi Si-young

Published : Oct. 31, 2023 - 17:07

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One of the three suspects in the Suwon rental scam appears before tenants in the city, Gyeonggi Province on Oct. 17. (Yonhap) One of the three suspects in the Suwon rental scam appears before tenants in the city, Gyeonggi Province on Oct. 17. (Yonhap)

Victims of a local housing rental scam who claim the fraudster is living off their money have gotten increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of the police investigation, calling for immediate action, according to a report Tuesday.

The suspect, who fled the country in May with rental deposits ahead of a police investigation the following month, is currently in the US, the victims said, adding that he, his wife and son recently moved away from Atlanta, Georgia, after learning that they had been spotted.

Victims said the money that propped up the suspect’s “luxury life” on the run was from their jeonse rental deposits that the suspect refused to return.

According to the claims of the victims who have assessed the situation through Koreans living in the US, the family lived in an upscale house, and their elementary school-aged son attended a local private school. It is said that the son even had a former professional fencing coach to learn the sport, which in itself is regarded as a luxury activity.

“Is it this easy to defraud all these tenants and live a life like that?” one victim was quoted as saying in the report. “I feel completely helpless.”

A total of 75 defrauded tenants have asked police to help them retrieve at least 5 billion won ($3.6 million) in total deposits from the suspect. The jeonse rental system requires landlords to pay back the lump sum cash deposit a tenant has paid up front when the lease ends.

Police suspect the man on the run, who owns 11 villas in Daejeon, had deliberately defrauded tenants by not disclosing the fact that getting their deposits back at the expiry might not be easy, because of the different priority given to tenants the landlord owes money to. Interpol has issued a red notice for the suspect.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation,” a police officer with knowledge of the matter said in the report. “We’re almost done with finding out who had aided and abetted (the suspect) and looking into when exactly he became insolvent.”

A day ago, President Yoon Suk Yeol called on the government to send a clear message on jeonse fraud, saying it was an “egregious crime that hurts our next generation.” He was referring to a separate rental swindle in Suwon that has allegedly scammed some 671 households.

The defrauded tenants, most of them in their 20s and 30s and residing mainly in the most populous city in Gyeonggi Province, are demanding the return of a total of 80 billion won in deposits. A second round of questioning took place Monday as police grilled three suspects, all from one family.