NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 11, 2014

W. Newbury man charged with scamming tenants

WEST NEWBURY — A Bachelor Street homeowner faces charges for using Craigslist to lure potential renters into giving him large amounts of cash to secure rooms, then pocketing the money and refusing to make good on the rentals.

Dana Chooljian, 47, of 156 Bachelor St., was charged last week with two counts of larceny over $250 by false pretenses. Yesterday he was arraigned on those charges at Newburyport District Court as well as attending a probation violation hearing related to a past Craigslist scam dating back to 2013.

“It’s a broken record,” West Newbury police Chief Lisa Holmes said yesterday.

Last Friday, Chooljian was charged with trying to rent out a guest house, separate from his main property, that had been condemned by health agent Paul Sevigny last December.

According to the police report, after seeing a listing on the online classified site, the victim agree to give Chooljian $400 to secure the house. Chooljian told the victim the house would be ready by Feb. 3. But when that date came and went without hearing from Chooljian, the victim went to police.

Days earlier, Chooljian was charged with the same crime when another victim responded to a different Craigslist ad, this one for a room within the main house. The victim gave Chooljian $700, $500 rent and $200 deposit, with the understanding he would move in March 1. The victim was later informed that the previous tenant would not be leaving. When attempts to retrieve his money failed, the victim contacted the authorities, according to court records.

Court records show that Chooljian was on probation at the time of those two charges in regards to a June 21, 2013 plea deal stemming from a similar incident. In May, 2013. a female victim responded to a Craigslist ad that listed a “large one bedroom apartment” for $850 a month with utilities included. Days after giving Chooljian the deposit, the victim noticed the apartment was still being listed, raising her suspicion. When she contacted Chooljian, he assured her that she would receive her money back, court records state. But after several weeks, he had yet to reimburse her, leading her to call police.

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