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3 Who Ran Rental Service Accused of Bilking Clients

July 22, 1987|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

The operators of a former Van Nuys rental service were arrested Tuesday after being accused of cheating consumers out of fees for listings of rental units that did not exist or were already rented.

Janice Coleman, 26, and LaMont Cornell Kennedy, 23, both of Covina, and Elyal Shaty, 26, of Van Nuys, are charged with a number of violations, ranging from offering property for rent without the permission of the property owner to false and deceptive advertising.

The three operated the Rental Market in the 7400 block of Van Nuys Boulevard in Van Nuys for about a year until it was closed a month ago, said City Atty. James K. Hahn, whose office filed a 29-count criminal complaint against the trio in Los Angeles Municipal Court.

Deputy City Atty. Ruth Kwan, who is prosecuting the case, said the city attorney's Consumer Protection Unit has received about 50 complaints about the rental agency. But, Hahn said, "the nature and scope of this scam leads us to suspect that there may be many others we haven't identified."

$50 or $100 Fees

The city attorney contends that the agency advertised property for rent in newspapers, but that the property, in many cases, had been previously advertised elsewhere. And the owners were unware that the Rental Market listed their properties.

"When victims responded to an ad, they were told the property was still available, but they would have to pay a fee of $50 or $100 before they could get details," Hahn said. "Then all they would be given would be telephone numbers. When they called the numbers, victims frequently discovered the properties already had been rented, sometimes weeks or months previously."

In some cases, Hahn said, apartment seekers would discover that the listings didn't match the requirements they had given to the Rental Market. In each case, he said, defendants refused to refund fees when the consumer complained.

Hahn said his office will seek restitution for the victims.

The complaint names Coleman and Kennedy in all 29 counts of the criminal complaint. Shaty is named in five.

Counts on Coleman, Kennedy

Coleman and Kennedy are each charged with eight counts of making false and misleading statements, one count of grand theft, two counts of failing to make refunds of an advance fee as required by law, eight counts of false and deceptive advertising of pre-paid rental services and 10 counts of listing property for rent without the property owner's permission.

Shaty is charged with one count of listing property without the owner's permission and two counts each of failing to refund an advance fee and of false and deceptive advertising.

Each count of making false and misleading statements is punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Each of the other violations carry maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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