Woman arrested, accused of tricking people into signing ‘Fake Leases’

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 3:24 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Imagine someone coming to your home and telling you that you’re trespassing and need to leave.

That’s exactly what happened to multiple renters in Savannah. WTOC Investigates uncovered documents about a woman police say repeatedly ripped-off people in tough financial situations, including homeless veterans, out of thousands of dollars.

Savannah Police Department incident reports detail accusations against 30-year-old Shaquaysia Jackson. Police said Jackson tricked people into thinking they were signing a real contract only to find out they’d signed fake leases.

Shaquaysia Jackson's Chatham County mug shot.
Shaquaysia Jackson's Chatham County mug shot.(WTOC)

Police arrested Jackson last month on three counts of forgery and one count of theft months after Savannah Police said she stole money from homeless people, veterans, a couple with a baby, and even the Catholic Church, taking thousands of dollars from non-profits and charities meant to help people in need and moving those people into homes she didn’t actually own.

Maureen McDermott volunteers for a local non-profit that connects homeless people and vets in Savannah with stable housing.

“We found out basically that we had been duped,” McDermott said.

McDermott said it was obvious Jackson had done this before.

“As we dealt with her a little bit more, asking for leases and more information, everything started to unravel,” she said.

SPD records show Jackson repeatedly targeted Galin Mortgage’s rental properties by acting like a renter, making copies of their keys, and then turning around and moving people in. Owner David Guggenheim said he had to show up and break the news to the unknowing squatters.

“I would show up and say, ‘I don’t remember renting to you.’... ‘I hate to tell you, here’s proof I own the property, you’ve just been scammed,” he said.

Guggenheim said it forced them to make changes. They’ve replaced their physical keys with digital locks, and they change the codes to those locks regularly. They also now limit the number of listings they post at a time.

Guggenheim said he was frustrated at first when an SPD detective told him it was a civil issue, not criminal.

“It’s not petty!” He said. “I mean, if you steal a 6-pack of beer they’ll throw you in jail. And you’re gonna let someone steal 15-hundred dollars multiple times from victims? It’s not petty at all.”

SPD did ultimately charge Jackson this time. But back in 2018, Savannah Police responded to a fraud report from a man claiming he’d paid a $700 deposit to rent a property.

The supposed owner? None other than Shaquaysia Jackson. That officer referred the victim to civil court. Jackson was never charged.

SPD gave us the following statement regarding their handling of the 2018 report:

“Our officers handle each incident on a case-by-case basis. The officer involved determined the matter was best resolved through magistrate court based on the information at that time.”

Five years and thousands of dollars later, McDermott said Jackson has taken a lot more than money from her alleged victims.

“It just breaks my heart to see the veteran community suffering,” McDermott said. “And not just because she took money from non-profits, but because she took something to me more important to a veteran: your date of birth, social security number. The potential for further damage is there.”

Late last month, Jackson appeared before a Chatham County judge who denied her bond. We contacted her attorney, Joey Turner, at the Turner Law Firm. They did not get back to us in time for this story.

Savannah Police provided this advice for people to avoid rental scams: Ask to meet the person in the home you are renting, research the landlord prior to signing anything and when possible use a reputable real estate agent.