Santa Monica: Alleged vacation rental operators charged with bilking consumers

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Posted November 15, 2012 by The Argonaut in News
Three Los Angeles residents have been charged for allegedly defrauding customers through a vacation rental scam in Santa Monica during the past year.
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office filed an 18-count criminal complaint Nov. 8 against Eran Shabtay, Ann Dora Shabtay and Stacy Gale Shabtay, who is also known as Gale Byers and Stacy Gale Byers, Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky said.
The three Los Angeles residents are charged in the complaint with grand theft by false pretenses, unauthorized charging of credit cards, false advertising and operating without a business license, Radinsky said.
The defendants are alleged to have owned and operated a vacation rental property near Second Street and Ocean Park in Santa Monica, which they advertised on the websites vrbo.com and homeaway.com.
Consumers alleged that their credit cards were charged multiple times for the same stay, and in higher amounts than agreed for the rentals. Customers additionally alleged that the property did not have the same size, amenities, or quality that was advertised online, and that they were sometimes double-booked with other customers on the same day, Radinsky said.
According to the complaint, the defendants allegedly operated under a number of different business names, including MMM Properties, Stone Edge Properties and West Coast Realty Group.
The Shabtays are scheduled to be arraigned in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Dec. 11.
Each of the charges is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and a base fine of up to $2,500, Radinsky said.
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office is continuing to investigate the case. Consumers who believe they may have lost money to these businesses or individuals are asked to contact the city attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (310) 458-8336, or smconsumer.org.

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