FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A warning for consumers seeking federal housing assistance. US Postal Inspectors said you should be wary of fraudulent offers and websites. The tricks take fees and personal information from unsuspecting victims.
On one website an ad said for consumers making less than $30,000 a year it can help save renters hundreds of dollars with a section eight voucher.
"They had to send a $10 check or money order for the initial application. They were notified they were approved, and they needed to send $299 for the second phase," explained Christopher Cizin, US Postal Inspector.
Section eight housing is a federally-funded assistance program to almost 5 million low-income households in the US. Postal inspectors said these ads were placed in penny saver magazines and got a lot of attention. More than 250 victims lost thousands of dollars with the scam.
"The victims were extremely sad and scared because the money that they paid to the scam was money that they could have right now to pay for their current rent," said Cizin.
Postal inspectors caught up with James Bozzuto after an employee he hired thought something was wrong.
"They worked at this company for approximately one week, they saw a lot of money coming in, and nobody was receiving what they were doing. They felt like it was a scam," said Cizin.
As far as we know, he was taking the money and spending it on himself.
"It is unfortunate that we do have folks who do this type of scams. Sometimes they prey on the very elderly, the very poor folks that don't know any better or don't have this information and that is a shame," said Mirza Orriols, HUD.
James Bozzuto pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges in this case and is awaiting sentencing.