Elaborate Smyrna Rental Theft Scam Nets 2 Arrests, 6 More Pendin - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Elaborate Smyrna Rental Theft Scam Nets 2 Arrests, 6 More Pending

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Verna Nowell and Ronald O. Miles Jr., both of Smyrna, were arrested Friday. (Photo: Smyrna Police Department) Verna Nowell and Ronald O. Miles Jr., both of Smyrna, were arrested Friday. (Photo: Smyrna Police Department)
Ronald D. Miles Sr. and Chase Madden (Photo: Smyrna Police) Ronald D. Miles Sr. and Chase Madden (Photo: Smyrna Police)
Barbara McBride and Cory Bynaker (Photo: Smyrna Police) Barbara McBride and Cory Bynaker (Photo: Smyrna Police)
Kimberly Draper and Shirley Watson (Photo: Smyrna Police) Kimberly Draper and Shirley Watson (Photo: Smyrna Police)

SMYRNA, Del. - Following a nine month investigation into a national rental theft scam center in Smyrna, Delaware, the Smyrna Police Department made two arrests Friday, with six more arrest warrants pending.

According to police, the investigation began in November of 2014 after a Florida resident reported a possible scam involving a Smyrna resident, 62-year-old Verna Nowell. Police say the victim found an ad on the website, trulia.com, for a rental house and responded to the online ads and eventually agreed with Nowell to send a check to her in Smyrna. Police say after this report, they questioned Nowell who denied any knowledge of the scam and claimed her identity had been stolen.

Then in January of 2015, police say they were contacted by another victim, this time living in Texas, reporting a similar situation. Police say that victim reported his own home was found online on trulia.com, when in fact it was not. Police say the victim contacted the person who posted the home for rent but was asked to send $2,300 to the owner/landlord who was another Smyrna resident. The victim stated the "landlord" then advised that once the money was received it was agreed that the rental agreement and then the keys would be mailed to him, according to police. This incident led to the arrest of 21-year-old Dustin Brennan for attempted theft by false pretense, police say.

With this new information detectives were able to link both incidents and began an in depth investigation into the online rental theft scam.

Detectives learned that Nowell met people from Nigeria online via internet dating sites. Police say Nowell eventually agreed to receive money from people throughout the country and after taking a portion of the proceeds she would then forward the money out of the United States to Nigeria via Western Union and MoneyGram. As part of the scam, police say people outside of the U.S. were locating and copying either legitimate ads for rental properties or copying information from other online sources and then reposting the information on craigslist and trulia.com as if they were the landlords/owner of the properties while using their American counterpart's names. Once an unsuspecting renter contacted the seller, they were advised to wire the money to one of the eight individuals uncovered in the investigation, according to police. The money was then collected by the group up and down the state at various Western Union and MoneyGram locations in order to conceal suspicious activity, police say.

Police say more than 35 victims have been identified from throughout the country through the scam, according to police. Police add that about $150,231 has changed hands during the course of the investigation.
 
Along with Nowell detectives identified several other suspects who were implicated in this large scale rental theft scheme including: Ronald O. Miles Jr. of Smyrna, Nowell's grandson, Chase Madden of Townsend, Barbara McBride of Smyrna, Cory Bynaker of Smyrna, Kimberly Draper of Clayton, Shirley Watson of Townsend, and Ronald D. Miles Sr. of Smyrna.

Both Miles Jr. and Nowell were arrested on Friday, according to police. Nowell is charged with racketeering, money laundering, theft $1,500 or greater, second-degree conspiracy, and falsely reporting an incident to police. Nowell was released after posting $28,000 secured bail, police say.

Miles Jr. is charged with money laundering, theft $1,500 or greater and second-degree conspiracy, according to police. He was committed to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in default of $14,000 secured bail.

As of Friday night, active arrest warrants were pending for the following people pertaining to this investigation for money laundering, theft $1500 or greater and conspiracy 2nd degree.

Ronald D. Miles Sr., 48, of Smyrna, Delaware.

Chase Madden, 18, of Townsend, Delaware.

Barbara McBride, 52, of Smyrna, Delaware.

Cory Bynaker, 22, of Smyrna, Delaware.

Kimberly Draper, 37, of Clayton, Delaware.

Shirley Watson, 44, of Townsend, Delaware.

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