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Fake landlord scams women in Warrensville Heights

Posted at 7:29 AM, Dec 26, 2017

Imagine putting down a deposit on an apartment, packing up all your belongings and then never being able to move in. That’s what’s happened to several local women who say they were scammed by a man who said he’d take care of them.

Kiana Williams, is one of those women, “I still got to struggle to get Christmas gifts now, but it's like Christmas or am I moving?"

Just days before Christmas she realized she lost $475 on an apartment that never existed.

“My kids, they were so excited,” she said.

Mena Gilcrease said she can relate after her encounter with Otis Simmons Jr., who posed as a property manager.

“It was so confusing because it's like, I did my research I thought, everything seemed legit."

That’s how Simmons came off they said, touting around as the property manager for M & I Properties Development, LLC.

“He had keys to these units, he had paperwork for the application that had the company name on it,” said Gilcrease.

He hooked them by posting apartment listings on social media and craigslist, then, according to police reports filed to the Warrensville Heights Police Department, he was collecting deposits, application fees, even first months rent from the women.

“We all have kids like that's what made it so bad,” Williams said, trying to pull herself together from her tears.

When it was the move-in day, all the women share the same story: Simmons was nowhere to be found.

Gilcrease said she wasted more money just waiting for him to let her and her family in the place. 

“We kept everything on the U-Haul for 4 days, while listening to him tell us that it will be ready the next day,” she said.

So News 5 went looking for Simmons. We found his last known address, but he wasn’t there. 

Then we gave him a call and only caught him for a few seconds on the phone before he hung up.

We eventually tracked down the actual owner of the company, Mark Mazzurco who said Simmons wasn’t an employee of his. 

“He’s not an employee of M & I properties, he's a sub-contractor we utilize to fix up units,” he said.
The company itself was hard to track down as it has no current business address, working phone number and no website, even though they own over a dozen properties.

When asked how Mazzurco feels about Simmons using his company name, he said, “the unfortunate part about this is you can't stop evil people. They say you own all these buildings, and apartments and houses, what are you doing for us, but I'm a victim as well."

Right now, the Warrensville Heights police have a warrant out for Simmons arrest and they believe he's on the run. He has a history of misdemeanor crimes in the past.

Mazzurco said they are going to try to place the women in housing, but as of now, the women are out the money they gave Simmons and have yet to find a home.