JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two months after a woman who asked the News4JAX I-TEAM for help – claiming she’d been ripped off in a rental scam – is now accused of making it all up.
Lori Beth Hyman was arrested Thursday morning charged with felony grand theft, trespass and lying to law enforcement.
We are dedicated to educating our viewers and readers about scammers and we’re committed to bringing them to justice – even in cases like this one where a woman told us, told police, told her attorney, and told an innocent business that she was a scam victim. Now, new facts show police believe she was the scammer not the victim.
Our investigation began when Hyman emailed the I-TEAM Oct. 3. She wrote to us saying she had “…paid rent for a residential house and [it] turned out to be a scam and now I’m being forced to leave…”
We met with Hyman. She told us she was desperate because she had given all her money to rent the home and couldn’t afford to move.
She showed us her lease agreement for the rental on West 25th street – a home she said she found in September while searching for a place for her, her husband and her 15-year-old son to live while she received treatment for cancer in Jacksonville.
“We came, you know, it was open house, there was a few other people here, looking at the home. We came in, the door was open at the time. And like, I just basically fell in love, like with the space,” she explained to us during the interview.
Hyman said her rental application was accepted after a few weeks, and then she went to the house to sign the lease. She said she met in-person with a man wearing a badge from the rental company JWB and used her debit card to pay him a total of $2,300 in deposits and rent.
“He gave me a receipt, which is right here. This is the receipt, everything on the receipt looked what you know, look legit, you know, showed the date that we paid. It was an electronic transfer, because it was on a chip reader, card reader showed what we paid,” Hyman showed us.
But after moving in, she said a representative with JWB showed up surprised to see the home rented, looked at the lease she had, and told her it was not valid and that she needed to leave. That’s when Hyman contacted the I-TEAM for help.
“I just want to find, I just want to find this guy. And I just want everybody to be aware of scams,” she told us.
After our interview with Hyman, we called JWB and was told the company believed Hyman was a victim of a rental scam, however, she needed to leave the home, which is rental property. Our check of court records showed the real estate company filed for eviction, with a hearing scheduled for Oct. 28.
While we continued to investigate her case, we told Hyman her options for help including Jax Area Legal Aid for free attorney assistance We also insisted she file a police report with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office. She did both.
Our story about Hyman’s claims aired Oct. 26, and a day later, court documents confirm a settlement agreement was reached with Hyman to allow her to stay in the home through the month of November — as long as she paid rent and left by Nov. 30. We reported that update to our viewers on Oct. 31.
Then a new filing was made with the court. Dated Nov. 14, JWB claimed Hyman broke the settlement agreement when she “failed to make the payment due on November 3.”
The I-TEAM did a nationwide background check on Hyman and confirmed she has a criminal history of theft and identity theft from charges filed in the state of Iowa. Police also say she was sentenced to five years for welfare fraud in Maine.
The I-TEAM has confirmed Hyman told the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office a similar story to the one she told us. She claimed she found the home during an open house, and that she met a man wearing a JWB badge to sign the lease and make her payment for deposits and rent.
However, detectives uncovered a different story. They revealed there was no open house, that Hyman had illegally gained access to the home, and she faked lease documents so it appeared she had a legal contract to be there.
Because of that, Hyman is charged with trespass, lying to law enforcement and grand theft. The grand theft charge is a felony offense related to the thousands of dollars JWB lost in rental income because Hyman didn’t pay while continuing to live in the house.