A Virginia man helped scam over a dozen people out of nearly $90,000 in different schemes, including one that involved fake real estate listings, according to federal prosecutors.
Richard Edward Hardy, 55 of Portsmouth, and other co-conspirators who weren’t publicly identified, worked together to defraud nearly 20 people nationwide between 2020 and 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced in an Oct. 25 news release.
The man carried out these schemes after having been convicted of “similar conduct” in state court in December 2020, prosecutors said.
In the real estate scheme, homes were advertised as available to rent online — but they weren’t actually available, according to court documents.
Hardy duped people into sending payments to his home to cover security deposits and first month’s rent for the properties, a statement of facts filed in court says.
One victim, from Florida, came across a fake listing online for a single-family home for rent in Orlando in June 2022, according to court documents. The would-be tenant reached out to express interest in renting the home, not knowing he was actually communicating with a scammer.
The scammer told the prospective renter to send money orders to their “assistant,” Hardy, through FedEx, documents said. As a result, the victim mailed the man two U.S. Postal Service money orders worth a total of $1,150, according to prosecutors.
Now, a judge has sentenced Hardy to two years in prison in connection with the mail fraud schemes, according to the release.
McClatchy News reached out to a federal public defender representing Hardy for comment on Oct. 26 and didn’t receive an immediate response.
Another scam Hardy helped carry out was a “romance” scheme, prosecutors said.
One woman, from Utah, was conned into sending the Virginia man money orders after meeting his co-conspirator, named “Kevin,” on an online dating site, according to court documents, which said she agreed to help financially support “Kevin” in buying a business.
Overall, Hardy victimized 19 people, including the Utah woman, of $87,267, the statement of facts says.
He would have received another $104,457 that was mailed to him in connection with the separate schemes, but authorities intercepted the money, according to the statement of facts.
Portsmouth is about 5 miles southwest of Norfolk.