POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – An investigation is underway in Pottawatomie County into an alleged rental scam, with families thinking they’d found their dream home, but matters turned into a nightmare instead.
The four-bedroom house, located on the 200 block of Oklahoma Street in Dale, was posted for sale on Facebook on June 26. According to two women whom KFOR talked to Wednesday, the seller took down payments on it from multiple people and never returned their money.
Sophia Wooters and her family thought they were set for the rent-to-own home after putting down $700 down on June 30. That day, they even told the landlord of their former home that they’d be leaving. After the seller went absent, she freaked out, especially when the former landlord was not going to allow them to stay in the former home.
“Very stressed and hopeless,” said Sophia Wooters of the uncertainty. “I have three kids. There was two weeks where I just didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to stay with my three kids.”
Wooters was also without $700. She found it odd that the seller asked her to meet him at a Walmart in Shawnee to discuss the sale. Later, when it came time to make things official, she found the paperwork process to be fishy as well.
“I asked him, ‘Where’s the contract at,'” she explained. “He said, ‘I don’t have a contact at the moment, but I’ll give you a receipt and I’ll sign it. I want you to write it. You can’t read my handwriting.’ So, I thought it was kind of weird that he had me write my own receipt for a house that he was going to rent to me.”
The agreement was that she and her family could move in on Aug. 1 and $800 was due on that date. After that, Wooters said the seller disappeared on vacation.
On move-in-day, as she was doing yard work, a woman named Rachel Hankins appeared at the house with her family, saying they were supposed to move in there on July 4 and had already put in a $180 down payment. Hankins shared with Wooters that since then, the seller had been blowing her off.
Stunned, the two women called police.
“I’m mad and I’m upset, and I’m stressed,” Hankins said. “We work hard for our money, for what we make, and we gave him everything that we had.”
She explained that they had already turned on electricity for the home, and the bill reached $749 before they closed the account. And as they rushed to find another home to live in, they had to settle on one beyond their planned budget.
“We had to pay triple what we had planned on paying here,” she said. “So, we have spent absolutely everything that we’ve had to move, and he just gets away with taking people’s money and not doing anything.”
While KFOR was at the property, we learned someone is now living in the home. The new tenant told us he signed paperwork with the seller.
We also were told the seller lives next door to the just-sold property. No one came to the door when we knocked on it Wednesday.
Wooters and Hankins tell KFOR they know of at least two other people who may have been played by the same scam, according to posts they’ve seen on Facebook.
The Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office reports they’ve turned Wooter’s case over to the District Attorney’s Office.