LATEST: Rent-fraud probe in Lake Worth nets third alleged scammer


A Pennsylvania man is charged with multiple felonies in connection to a rental fraud scheme that cost victims thousands of dollars and left them without a place to live, according to Palm Beach County sheriff’s arrest reports.

Mohamad Awni Hameid, 21, walked out of the Palm Beach County Jail on Oct. 6 after posting bonds totaling $40,000. He was arrested Oct. 1 on eight counts of grand theft between $300 and $5,000, three counts of burglary and one count of fraud to obtain property under $20,000.

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Hameid was allegedly part of a three-man group of scammers that included a Palm Beach County man and his son who were licensed real estate brokers, according to the reports.

In one case that occurred in May, Hameid allegedly took $2,900 for a deposit and the first month’s rent for a home south of Lantana on the 7300 block of Thatcher Avenue.

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The victim and her family moved into the home May 6. On May 15, sheriff’s deputies and a representative from the rightful real estate agent showed up at the home and informed the woman she was not allowed to be in the residence, the sheriff’s office report said.

The woman was given five days to move out before an eviction process would begin, the report said.

Another victim told investigators she gave Hameid $2,500 on May 1 to rent an apartment in the 200 block of North C Street in Lake Worth.

When the woman attempted to moved into the home on May 3, she found that it was already occupied by someone else. The person who was already in the home soon realized that he too had been duped in the rental-fraud scheme.

Steven Christopher Arce, 44, and his son Andrew Steven Arce, 27, both of Lake Worth, are also charged with multiple felony counts.

Jonathan S. Schwartz, Hameid’s Miami-based attorney, said his client was hired by the Arces to fly down from Pennsylvania and work as an assistant.

“Mr. Hameid is also a victim in this,” Schwartz said.

Steven Arce was arrested June 19 and remains in the Palm Beach County Jail in lieu of $60,000 bail. Arce’s request for a bond reduction was denied last month and he has a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 19. He has pleaded not guilty.

Andrew Arce was arrested July 7 on burglary and grand theft charges and released the same day after posting a $13,000 bond. He was arrested again Oct. 2 on another grand theft charge and released the next day on $3,000 bail. Andrew Arce faces a Nov. 1 arraignment.

A sheriff’s office investigation determined that Steven Arce put his phone number on "for rent" signs at various locations in Lake Worth.

Once someone would call, Arce would offer them multiple places to rent and provide a lockbox number so the prospective renter could take a tour of the home.

Once an agreement was reached, deputies said Arce would ask the caller to meet his representative — Hameid — at a public location to sign a lease agreement and get a cash payment for the deposit and the first month’s rent. The renter was provided with a generic receipt. After the meeting, deputies said, Arce's contact number would be disconnected.

Hameid pleaded not guilty Oct. 4 to the charges he faces. He was ordered by a judge to prove the money used to pay bail was not derived from the alleged frauds.

Schwartz said Hameid knew one of the Arces from Philadelphia and was coaxed into flying to Palm Beach County because he wanted to get into the real estate business.

The working relationship, Schwartz said, lasted only five days before Hameid thought better of the arrangement.

The alleged scam netted Steven Arce about $44,000 and involved more than 20 victims, the sheriff’s office said.



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