by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Gwinnett County police said a Nevada-based company is cashing in on Georgia homes it doesn't own by changing the locks and renting them out.
Investigators tell Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh unsuspecting renters are signing bogus leases and are paying a company rent that has no legal claim to the property.
Ruth Roberts said she was looking for homes to rent on Craigslist and she found Home Solutions Assets Company.
She said a representative showed her several Gwinnett County homes for rent.
She signed a lease, moved in and didn't suspect anything until an officer knocked on her door.
"Asked me who am I renting the house from," Roberts told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh. "I rented a house. I have a lease."
Gwinnett County police said the actual owner of the home on Stancrest Lane in Lawrenceville lives in New York. Neighbors called to alert him someone had moved in.
Roberts said she paid Home Solutions Asset Company in cash. According to the company's website, they're "reclaiming communities from blight" and can help people "occupy homes."
She said the company told her what to say if an officer returned.
"She called me to coach me. When they say
this -- always have a copy of the lease, show your lease," Roberts said.
Her lease states she would pay $800 dollars a month. It also said Homes Solution Asset is owner of record of the property.
Police see it another way.
"What we have here is actually a company that's actually taking rent from these occupants and not providing any compensation whatsoever to the people that actually own the property," said Cpl. Jake Smith with the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Investigators said Homes Solutions Asset Company has rented at out least four Gwinnett County homes, which they have no legal claim to.
Their investigation has led to one arrest. Police charged Chrischon Ellis, an alleged company employee, with felony theft by taking.
Police said Ellis was living in a home rent-free in exchange for fielding emails and phone calls for Home Solutions Asset Company.
Police said they don't know how widespread the operation is and they fear others will fall victim.
Kavanaugh emailed and called Home Solutions Asset to ask them about their practices and how they get into their homes. We are still awaiting their response.
"I didn't think anybody would actually do that, but obviously they can," Roberts said.
She is now in the process of working out a lease with the actual property owner.