TOTTENVILLE, Staten Island — Tracy Vitale says she was ripped off by a woman she thought was a licensed real-estate agent.
She and her husband responded to an add on Craigslist. They wound up giving Caryn Celestina $2,600 for a deposit and a broker’s fee for a basement apartment in the Tottenville section of Staten Island. But the deal fell through and Caryn allegedly didn’t refund their money.
Finally, Caryn went to her house and returned half the money. But then communication went south.
“She would not answer her phone calls. She would not answer her text messages,” Tracy told me.
At one point, Caryn did send a text message, but said she’d spent Tracy’s money.
“I used it to pay bills,” she explained in the text. She claimed she was living “check to check.”
So, Tracy got in touch with me. I went to Caryn’s home where she also runs South Shore Realty. She wasn’t there so I left a telephone message. I never heard back so I paid another visit a few days later.
This time Caryn opened the door a few inches. Here’s the way the conversation went:
Caryn: "She has seven to 14 days to get paid.”
Howard: “Can you tell me why you spent the money?”
Caryn: “She gets seven to 14 days to get paid.”
Howard: “Well, so why did you take part of her security deposit then?
Caryn: “Because it was given over a month ago.”
Howard: “That money was supposed to be in escrow. Why would you do that? “
Caryn: “She gets seven to 14 days.”
But Caryn didn’t get seven to 14 days. Three days after we spoke, the NYPD paid a morning visit and arrested her for grand larceny and scheming to defraud. We know of others who say they were ripped off by Caryn. We hope somehow the arrest motivates her to find a way to make refunds.
By the way, we could find no evidence that Caryn is a licensed real estate broker. That’s another good lesson. Always check on any agent with whom you may be dealing.