CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — A Clearwater woman is behind bars, accused of renting a house that she didn’t own to someone who had no idea.
Karey Whitfield told WFLA she still can’t believe she fell victim. For weeks, she had been looking for a new place to rent for her, her husband and their teenage daughter. She was looking everywhere. That’s when a friend recommended Ewelina Drozd.
Drozd had ads on social media, showing off one of the houses she had for rent. Whitfield reached out.
The two met at a home on Magnolia Drive in Clearwater. Whitfield liked the house, but Drozd told her she had another home that was the same rent, but was a little bit bigger. The house was on Belcher Road. It was a bit older, but was bigger and had a pool.
Whitfield was sold.
“Signed the lease agreement, she wrote me out a receipt for my deposit and my first month’s rent,” said Whitfield. “And we said our goodbyes – and she handed me keys and we said our goodbyes. “
Whitfield figured it would be the perfect surprise for her family. She took them to their new home, and that’s when she got an awful surprise.
She had been taken.
“There’s a gentleman standing outside with a big truck and I’m like, ‘hey, how are you? How can I help you?'” said Whitfield. “He’s like, ‘I’m here to meet the realtor and start renovations.’ I said, come again? Excuse me? I just rented the place this afternoon.”
She called Clearwater police, and detectives immediately began investigating. Luckily, while she was signing the paperwork, she did something that would prove to be a key piece of evidence for investigators.
“I took a picture of her ID just in case, that’s my mindset,” said Whitfield. “We have to get all of the information.”
Police arrested Drozd and she is now facing a single charge of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling. Her bond is set at $5,000.
Detectives say this is an active investigation and they are looking into the possibility there may be additional victims.
Rob Shaw with the Clearwater Police Department says when you’re looking for a new place to rent, it may not be the best practice to seek out listings on social media.
“Go through a regular realty group, a professional realtor that you know or that you know does business related to that,” he said. “Don’t find somebody online. Don’t find somebody on a Facebook group.”
Whitfield shelled out $1,800 for a first month’s rent and security deposit. Investigators returned $1,600, saying Drozd spent $200 at Home Depot for a mini refrigerator.
Whitfield says it’s now back to square one, looking for a new place to live. It’s been an emotional week.
“You know, Chip, it really is. It’s devastating,” said Whitfield. “Because we’re good, honest people, we just work hard and the way that people’s greed has escalated – where people have to scam you.”