ZANESVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Thieves are helping themselves to checks and money orders that are supposed to pay rent at apartment complexes across central Ohio. One property manager doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else, so she reached out to Better Call 4.
Pat Friebe, who manages the Northgate Apartments in Zanesville, first noticed something was amiss when she went to collect May’s rent and noticed three payments were missing.
“We found that there were three tenants that hadn’t paid their rent, and when I contacted them, they told me when they had put the money orders through, then brought in their stubs from their money orders – only to prove that they had paid them,” Friebe said. “They always had paid on time before and so that kind of gave us a first clue that something was up.”
Friebe then installed surveillance cameras around the leasing office.
“Nothing happened until Labor Day,” Friebe said. “At 1 in the morning is when I found it on my phone.”
The surveillance cameras streamed clear images of a thief to Friebe’s cellphone. A man was using what looked like fly tape and string to snag money orders and fish them out of the drop slot.
Friebe called Zanesville police.
“(The officer) looked at the pictures I had from my cameras, and of course not being able to recognize them– and that’s kind of as far as it went,” she said.
Between three money orders and one check, Friebe said more than $2,400 was stolen. The apartment complex had to absorb the loss.
Friebe reached out to Better Call 4 when she realized other apartment complexes in and around Columbus experienced the same type of theft.
“We’re hoping by doing this, that we can notify other properties if they have a dropbox, to be cautious,” Friebe said.
According to Friebe, multiple rent payments were stolen from the Rosebrook Village Apartments near Reynoldsburg. Management at Rosebrook Village is not permitted by corporate ownership to speak with reporters; however, a manager did confirm that the thefts took place.
One Rosebrook Village tenant filed a report with Columbus police after a $1,000 money order was stolen Oct. 1 and eventually cashed.
Just a four-minute drive from Rosebrook Village, management at the French Run apartments filed a report with Reynoldsburg police, stating 18 checks worth $15,000 dollars were stolen from the dropbox.
Reynoldsburg police said it has an open investigation.
Friebe is advising Ohio apartment-dwellers who don’t pay their rent online to make sure their money ends up in the right hands by mailing the payment or only dropping it off when someone is present in the leasing office.
“We’ve also had our tenants put on the back of anything they turn into us, ‘FOR DEPOSIT ONLY: RARICK PROPERTIES.'”
When someone cashes a money order, they have to give their name. Friebe contacted Western Union and about a month later, got photocopies of the cashed money orders with two names on them.
Friebe said her counterpart in Rosebrook Village is still waiting to receive photocopies.
Zanesville police commanders did not return a message seeking information on the case.