An Astoria landlord has been charged with taking thousands of dollars from potential tenants after posting a Craigslist listing for an apartment and room at his home that were never vacant.
According to a criminal complaint, Mario Lalicata, also known as Mario Lamagra, posted a rental listing on Craigslist for a basement apartment or room at his 48th Street home in Astoria. Between March 23 and August 13, Lalicata allegedly took security deposits ranging from $500 to $2,000 from prospective tenants and collected first month’s rent in two cases. Afterwards, as the move-in dates got closer, Lalicata allegedly suspended the moves after making up numerous excuses. When the tenants tried asking for their money back, the landlord allegedly promised to return the money or said the money was being used for repairs. Lalicata allegedly then stopped answering and returning the tenants’ calls.
“This case sadly represents another instance in which an allegedly greedy landlord is accused of taking advantage of Queens County’s tight housing market to rub unsuspecting individuals of substantial amount of their hard-earned savings through an online rental scheme,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “For many of the victims, the loss is doubly troubling in that they have lost their money and still have no place in which to live.”
The complaint also said that in two cases, Lalicata returned $200 of a $600 deposit and a woman claiming to be his wife returned $100 of $2,000 a tenant gave Lalicata as a deposit and one month’s rent.
On August 13, Lalicata was arraigned on a 22-count criminal complaint with ten counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud and ten counts of petit larceny.
Lalicata was ordered to be held on $10,000 bail and scheduled to return to court on August 27. If convicted he faces up to four years in prison.
Calls to Lalicata’s lawyer were not returned as of press time.