South Beach rent scammer nabbed by victims

Rich Urban was looking for a place on South Beach in February when he responded to a Craigslist ad — "Wanted: Cool roommate to share awesome apartment!" — and met Monica Brown, a small woman with a heavy accent who showed him a room at 713 Collins Ave. Urban gave her one month's deposit and expected to move in March 1.

You know where this is going: Brown called with a last-minute stalling story and then disappeared, and Urban, who never received a key, found the apartment locked.

But apparently Brown just couldn't resist returning Urban's text messages. She told him she'd return the money but she was "at the spa right now," according to a transcript posted online. Several times she wrote he had "little man's syndrome." And she complained haughtily, "You have to be supa flexible bc I actually hve a life."

She never agreed to a meeting time and place. Urban filed a police report but told Riptide soon after: "The Miami Beach Police are doing nothing about it. After repeated attempts to have a detective assigned to the case, I'm getting nowhere."

But after Urban's friend — a Miami Beach 411 message board poster with the handle FL_Style — posted the tale online, fellow commenters began sleuthing. They found that Monica Brown had been arrested just days after meeting Urban for pulling an identical scheme, posing as a landlord for an apartment at 2301 Collins and disappearing with a first and last months' deposit totaling $1,500. Urban's friend posted warnings on Craigslist, he says, and was contacted by several prospective renters who claimed to have been scammed by Brown.

Meanwhile, she continued to taunt via text: "You're so stupid and ugly if you think that the police will do anything for this. It's not like you know where I live... J."

When Urban went to the police with the information that his alleged scam artist had recently been arrested, the message board had done the cops' work for them. On March 11, she was arrested and charged, for the second time, with grand theft. The detective hadn't connected the two identical cases.

Brown, an Israeli native who says she is 24 but appears much older in her mug shot, should expect a full house for her trial. As one message board user commented: "Who's bringing the popcorn to court?"

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Gus Garcia-Roberts

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