Lease-to-Own Lure: Alleged Real Estate Scam Preyed on Absentee Owners

Riding up to homes for sale on her bicycle, Pamela Winegardner allegedly would chat with listing agents about her new business ventures, her career as a six-figure human resources consultant, her dying grandmother, her boyfriend's injured daughter, and her need to move quickly out of her current rental because the owners have new people moving in soon.

She'd like to buy this home, she reportedly said, but she first needed to lease it for a couple of months while she waited for some financial matters from a business deal to settle. She came across as poised, friendly, and likable, but Winegardner held a secret, real estate agents and authorities say: She is a scam artist.

According to real estate agents and landlords who count themselves as her victims: Winegardner posed over and over again as a prospective homebuyer interested in a lease-to-own option; she never bothered to change her name, only her voice, as she scammed her way into nearly two dozen known Ohio homes -- until their owners caught on and evicted her.

With 15 total evictions under her belt in the last four years and at least 21 overall, reports the Columbus Dispatch, the alleged check-forger finally landed a new home in jail, awaiting trial, thanks to some shrewd real estate agents, a concerned neighbor and a police detective investigating bank fraud.