Foreclosure scam suspects serve 90 day sentence, are released fr - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Foreclosure scam suspects serve 90 day sentence, are released from jail

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KENNEWICK, WA- A couple who pleaded guilty to breaking into foreclosed homes and renting them out to their friends, has already served their jail sentence.

Maggie Zieske and Steven Hartmann served just over two months in the Benton County Jail while their cases ran through the court system. Police arrested both of them back in November of 2015, after their renters discovered bills and rent were not being paid.

Turns out, this couple was in fact breaking into foreclosed homes, renting them out to family and friends, only to end up pocketing their rent money. As you can imagine, just a day after their sentencing and release, those victims are not happy.

"Be careful who you rent from. Everyone always says, 'Oh, you should do background checks'. It is very true, but you don't think about it when it's your friend," explained Shawna Breedlove, who rented her Pasco home from Zieske.

Zieske and Hartmann appeared in front of a judge on Thursday, one month after their guilty pleas. "She was like, you just have to pay $2,000.00 and you get to fix up the house and do whatever you want with it. It's yours. I don't have $2,000.00 to put into a house. And she said, 'Well, your family.. So Greg, this person that she was apparently working for, he will let me drop it down to about a thousand for you.' Well, I still don't have a thousand dollars," Elyssa Guest told NBC Right Now. Guest said she was thankful she didn't fall for her former foster mother's scam.

Both ordered to 90 days in jail, 6 months community supervision through the Department of Corrections and just over $3,000.00 in restitution.

"Obviously, no justice is being served at all. 90 days is not enough for something like that. I mean you are wrecking multiple peoples lives. These people became homeless, these people had to move, had to figure out what to do with their own children because of her. It is not okay," said Brittany Teeters, who is a former friend of Zieske's.

Both got out of jail within the last day, since they had already been serving time. Regardless, those victims whose lives are drastically changing tell NBC Right Now, they will not forget what these two have put them through. "Now we've had to postpone our wedding because our tax return is going towards moving. Instead of getting married, so.. It sucks," Breedlove says as tears fill her eyes.

The couple could have faced up to 30 years in prison. There is also an open case in Franklin County, where Breedlove rented from Zieske and Hartmann. The prosecutors office is currently reviewing the investigation, but have yet to file charges.
 

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KENNEWICK, WA. -- In update now to a story we first brought you Wednesday, Kennewick Police are asking victims of a widespread renting scam to come forward. And you might be a victim and not even know it. 

Two days ago two scammers were arrested here, living in this foreclosed home on 3rd Avenue. 

If you have done any rental business with the two pictured, Maggie Zieske and Steve Hartmann, then you may be a victim too. Although, keep in mind, the two may have used many different aliases in their sales. 

Kennewick Police tell us they believe these two would break into foreclosed or vacant homes, change the locks and then rent the homes to others under false rental agreements. They pocketed thousands from deposits and months of rent. And the scam possibly reaches as far as Spokane. 

"In most of the cases, the people were like, this seems to good to be true right?" Sgt. Ken Lattin with the Kennewick Police Department said. "These monthly payments are really low, this is really cheap, an easy way to get into a house. Well of course it was, it was too good to be true. And that's what you should ask yourself. When a deal is too good to be true, it probably is."

We talked to one neighbor who lived next door to the couple. She was just about to take her four kids to school on Tuesday when police came inside her home and told her to shelter for safety. 

Officers escorted her and her kids to the car so she could take them to class. She said it was a terrifying experience. 

"I was terrified. Stray bullets is all I could think of," Samantha Elder said. "Stray bullets, stray bullets and get out of here is all I could think. So I was a little bit nervous."

At another home, a neighbor said the two tried to scam not one, not two, but three houses on their block. At this point, police know of at least a half dozen victims. 

One victim even installed an HVAC system at a property he thought he was in a rent to own agreement with, only to find out he didn't own the place. If you think you're a victim, give the Kennewick Police Department a call.
 

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