Scam artist exposed in Turn To Tara investigation sentenced

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A Thornwood man who pleaded guilty to running an apartment rental scam targeting immigrants received a sentence of five years' probation.

Authorities say Jeffrey Pena, 44, posted handwritten flyers about apartments up for rent.

He was accused of collecting up to $1,700 to $3,600 in deposits, before telling the tenants the apartment was unavailable on move-in day and threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they complained.

MORE: Turn To Tara: Arrest made 1 week after exclusive report on immigrant scam  

MORE: Turn to Tara: Alleged housing scam targeted immigrants 

Authorities say he targeted mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants.

News 12 publicly exposed him in a Turn To Tara investigation in the summer of 2018.  Five days after News 12's story aired, Mount Pleasant police arrested Pena on eight felony counts.  He served six months in the county jail.

In conjunction with his sentence, he's been ordered to pay some of that money back or he may face more time behind bars. Authorities say he has to pay $32,000 in restitution to at least 27 victims.

His attorney says it's a big number considering the now-convicted felon is unemployed after being fired by Uber two months ago.

 

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