LIVERMORE -- A Livermore man who police say turned to Craigslist to defraud more than a dozen people of a total of nearly $25,000 was arrested Thursday, police said.
Sixteen people were believed to be victimized by 18-year-old Donnelley Gopidas in a monthlong rental scam that he perpetuated through the popular online classified ads site, Livermore spokeswoman Officer Traci Rebeijo said.
Gopidas was taken into custody on suspicion of fraud about 5 p.m. on Thursday, Rebeijo said. He was taken to Santa Rita Jail where he was being held in lieu of $55,000 bail.
Police say the 16 victims lost a total of $24,700.
According to police, Gopidas placed an advertisement on Craigslist listing his condominium at 1087 Murrieta ¿Blvd. for rent and asking potential renters to contact him.
Gopidas then met with the individuals who expressed interest and had them sign a rental contract while collecting $2,600 for a security deposit and first month's rent, Rebeijo said. The $1,300 rent Donnelley was offering runs about $500 less than the market value, Rebeijo said.
During most of the meetings, police say Gopidas refused to hand over a key to the condominium, claiming repairs still were being made. Though he assured his victims a key would be coming, Gopidas avoided their further attempts to reach him, Rebeijo said. At the same time, police say, he cashed their checks.
Police received a search warrant for Gopidas' condominium July 17 and issued an arrest warrant for him, Rebeijo said. Gopidas was not present when police searched the condo, Rebeijo said, but less than a week later he sent an email to one of his previous victims requesting $1,300 for "money owed," for a move-in date scheduled for July 25.
Gopidas agreed to meet that person in Pleasanton on Thursday, and detectives staking out the scene arrested him there, Rebeijo said.
Rebeijo said police have encountered scams such as this in the past and recommended that potential renters check the Multiple Listing Service to find out the legitimacy of a property being rented. She also said that, when applicable, potential renters should contact the Homeowners Association at any potential condominium unit and that they should not hand over money without receiving a key.
She also advised other victims who came into contact with Gopidas to call Livermore police Det. Elaine Briggs at 925-371-4779.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.