SHAMOKIN, NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Police say a Williamsport man has been arrested for selling a home he formerly occupied in Shamokin, as part of an elaborate theft scheme in which he collected over $17,000.
According to a press release, Gabriel Antonio Lopez was a former tenant, renting a home located at 817 East Sunbury Street, in Shamokin, where he stayed for approximately a year-and-a-half.
Officials say while staying in the home he allegedly arranged a scheme to sell the house to Maria Abreu, from Bronx, New York. Abreu doesn’t speak English and Lopez acted as if he had the authority to sell the home.
The District Attorney (DA) said Lopez prepared a rent-to-own agreement with Abreu to sell the home for $35,000 and promised to put the home in her name once the last payment was received.
The affidavit reads, Lopez acknowledged Abreu paid him $5,000 at the time of the purchase and was to make monthly payments of $600 to him until the total $35,000 was paid.
Police say between April 2020 and November 2021, Abreu paid Lopez over $17,000 in payments. While the owner of the home, Gloria Kalman, of Coal Township, never authorized anyone to sell the home, nor did she have any knowledge of it.
Law enforcement says Abreu was moving a few items into the home when she became suspicious after seeing a tax bill in the home which displayed a completely different name, rather than Lopez. Abreu questioned Lopez about the tax bill to which he replied the name on the bill was the former owner of the home but also Abreu would be responsible for paying the unpaid tax bill.
Officials say Abreu grew suspicious after visiting the home and with the help of her friend and translator, Darling Rivera, she contacted the DA’s office.
According to the criminal complaint, police spoke with Gloria Kalman who confirmed she truly owned the house since 2004.
Police say Kalman told them Lopez had been renting the house for the past year-and-a-half but started falling behind on rent payments, but never heard from him. Kalman confirmed Lopez was the only tenant of the home and the only one authorized to be occupying the home.
Law enforcement says Kalman received correspondence from Rivera, stating Lopez was selling the home to Abreu. Kalman confirmed that Lopez didn’t have the authority to do so and she hoped she was able to get her money back.
Lopez said between April 2020 and November 2021, she paid Lopez a total of $17,150 and she has the evidence to support her claim, such as:
- A letter stating Lopez and Abreu were entering into a rent to own contract dated 04-30-2020
- A copy of Lopez’s drivers license and Social Security card
- Receipts for payments Abreu made to Lopez using the Zelle banking app with Lopez’s name and email address
- A Western Union money order payment of $600 from Abreu to Lopez
- Text messages between Abreu and Lopez
- A delinquent tax notice found by Abreu at the home at 817 Sunbury Street, in the name of an unknown female
Police say restitution in the amount of $17,500 is sought in connection with this case and is payable to Maria Abreu.
Lopez has been charged with three felony counts of theft by deception.