A confrontation with the 10News I-Team is what got Anthony Zoccolillo, 30, in trouble.
In August, he and 68-year-old Robert Ramus were running a sophisticated rental scam -- until the I-Team caught up with them.
Zoccolillo and Ramus used the Internet to their advantage, posting fake rental ads on Craigslist and pretending to rent out upscale, vacant homes that were actually for sale and listed on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS). The MLS is a database used by real estate agents, and that is how the pair had information on the homes, including the code to open the lock boxes.
"They went out and purchased disposable cell phones, offered property for lease at below market rates and waited for the phone to ring. The phone began to ring immediately," said Deputy District Attorney Jim Waters.
The pair offered three properties -- a house in Pacific Beach, another home in La Jolla and one in Crown Point. Each time, they collected money for homes they did not own.
"Within a 10-hour period, we were able to secure as much as $9,400 in cash. Fortunately, Channel 10 was involved in the effort and the scam was shut down rather quickly," said Waters.
The I-Team set up a sting, offering the two men cash for a rental deposit for a Pacific Beach home.
Working with the I-Team was former police officer and private investigator Kevin Lachappelle, who pretended to be a potential victim.
The I-Team waited for a few hours and Zoccolillo arrived at the home to collect the cash.
Zoccolillo ran away from the I-Team and his victims.
However, in the end, the law caught up with him and Ramus.
The pair struck a deal with the district attorney and both men pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy and two counts of grand theft.
Waters said, "The DA's office takes these cases seriously."
The pair will be sentenced on Dec. 28.
Ramus could receive probation, but Zoccolillo could serve up to two years in prison because he has a prior record in New York for importing Ecstasy, an illegal drug.
Copyright Copyright 2007 by 10News.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.