‘This is do or die’: Teacher says he may lose home after falling for rental scam

GASTONIA, N.C. — An elementary school teacher in Gastonia says he fell for a rental scam and may lose his home.

Makalani Jones told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke he found an ad on Craigslist for a house in Gastonia.

He says he paid $1,000 down and $1,000 for the first month and moved in. However, the real owner called him a few days later and explained that the man who posted the ad had nothing to do with the property.

“This is just a random person,” Jones said. “They got access to the lockbox and was walking around posing as a landlord, putting up his own ads.”

Jones says he’s out the money and possibly a place to live.

He says the owner told him rent is around $800 more than the scammer charged him, which is out of his reach.

“I have no other place to go,” Jones said. “I don’t want to be cliché, but this is ‘do or die.’ Living in my car is not an option.”

Stoogenke has been in touch with the real owner, FirstKey Homes, asking if it has any suggestions that may help Jones stay in that house.

Tenants should verify that the owner of the rental is the actual owner when looking for a place to rent.

Stoogenke says to do the following:

  1. Go to the county’s website
  2. Check property records
  3. Enter the address
  4. Verify the owner’s name matches

“I personally don’t want anybody to experience what I’ve had to go through,” Jones said.

Editor’s Note: Two weeks after our story aired, Makalani Jones was taken into custody by US Marshals after a warrant was issued in Texas for aggravated sexual assault of a child. The warrant was issued on May 16, after Channel 9 interviewed him for this story.

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