An Astoria landlord has been charged with taking tens of thousands of dollars in security deposits and first-month rents from nearly two dozen prospective tenants over the last six months and then never letting them move in.
Mario Lalicata, who also goes by the last name of Lamagra, 54, of 25-55 48 St. was arraigned Aug. 13 on a 22-count criminal complaint charging him with 10 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud and 10 counts of petit larceny. Lalicata, who faces up to four years in prison if convicted, was held on $10,000 bail and scheduled back in court on Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaint, many of the prospective tenants learned of the rental of a basement apartment or room at Lalicata’s residence through a posting on Craigslist.
Allegedly, between March 23, and Aug. 13, Lalicata took security deposits ranging from $500 to $2,000 from the tenants and, in two instances, also collected the first month’s rent.
As the tenants’ move-in dates approached, Lalicata allegedly postponed the moves by making up various excuses, such as the apartment was not ready or that the electricity was not working, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
When the tenants grew tired of the excuses and asked for their money back, Lalicata allegedly either promised to return the money or said that he had used the money for repairs before he eventually stopped taking or returning their calls, Brown said.
It is alleged that in two instances, Lalicata returned $200 of a $600 deposit given to him by one tenant and that a woman purporting to be Lalicata’s wife returned $100 of the $2,000 that a tenant had given the defendant as a deposit and one month’s rent.
Anyone who believes that he or she may have been a victim of the defendant’s alleged scheme should contact the Economics Crimes Bureau at (718) 286-6673.