Bogus landlord dupes 15 couples out of €2,300 each

AT LEAST 15 couples are believed to have paid €2,300 each to a bogus landlord who disappeared with their cash.

But most of the people conned out of thousands of euro in an apartment rental scam have not yet gone to the gardaí. Just four formal complaints had been lodged with gardaí by yesterday.

A garda spokeswoman said: "They're probably mortified but we do want to hear from everyone who was caught up in this. All complaints will be fully investigated."

Gardaí are investigating several cases of false pretences involving a flat in the Sweepstake Apartments, Ballsbridge, Dublin.

They have asked for help in identifying the man in this photo (see right).

More details of the con emerge yesterday as gardaí confirmed the flat's true owner, who lives abroad, had no involvement.

Some 1,400 people viewed the advertisement for the low-rent upmarket Dublin 4 apartment on Daft.ie. The property was also advertised in a newspaper and classifieds magazine.

Those who responded to the ad found themselves dealing with a man who called himself Alan Grogan and made appointments for them to view the property late last week.

Over the next few days he is believed to have told 15 couples they could have the apartment and met with them in public places to exchange keys for a cash deposit of €1,150 plus another €1,150 month's rent in advance.

When they began turning up to the apartment on Tuesday, they found the keys did not fit and 'Grogan's' mobile number no longer responded.

One of those scammed described 'Grogan' as a credible "landlord" who did not raise suspicions despite insisting he receive cash.

Ian O'Connor told Newstalk 106! that the conman had not pressured him when arranging to meet to exchange money and keys.

"He seemed like a very nice guy, very natural. He was very friendly with us and seemed genuinely interested in us."

Mr O'Connor noted during that meeting that 'Grogan' was keen to complete the deal quickly but he still did not raise concerns.

"He had a lease with him and I read through it. I took my time and it looked very legitimate."

It is believed 'Grogan' had rented the apartment on a short-term letting to ensure he alone had access to it while he duped others.

Brian Fallon, director of Daft.ie, said the con artist "covered his tracks well. He had very convincing false papers and he acted the part well".

He said he was preparing to post new warnings on the website advising renters how to avoid being duped.

* Anyone who may have details about the man's identity is asked to ring gardaí at Irishtown on (01) 6669600, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666111 or any garda station.

Tips for renters

* Never hand over cash - there is no reasonable explanation for not accepting a cheque or bank draft.

* Don't conclude the deal until after the keys have been checked.

* Beware any landlord who stalls on providing a landline and address or who doesn't allow time to verify them.

* If a rent is unusually low, alarm bells should ring.

* Don't be rushed - the property market has improved for renters and it is no longer a landlord's market.

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