Police book 5 suspects in massive house rental scam

SEOUL– Police have booked five suspects as part of an investigation into a massive house rental scam that caused at least 17 billion won (US$13.3 million) in losses to tenants, police officials said Monday.

Police have been widening a probe after a landlord, known by his family name Kim, died recently without paying back rental deposits to many of his tenants.

Kim has been dubbed the “villa king” by media for owning a total of 1,139 “villas,” a term used in South Korea to refer to a home unit in multi-family residential buildings that are usually three to five stories high and cheaper than apartments.

Kim’s villas were rented via “jeonse,” the mainstream house rental arrangement in South Korea where the renter makes a lump-sum deposit instead of paying monthly rent and the money is returned at the end of the lease.

Five suspects, including lessors, have been identified and booked for investigation in connection with the rental scam, Nam Gu-jun, chief of the National Office of Investigation, said in a press briefing.

A total of 17 billion won in losses inflicted on tenants has been confirmed, the official said, adding police are tracking the flow of funds connected to the rental scam and looking into whether Kim had any accomplices.

“There has been a sharp rise in cases of jeonse scams amid the recent economic slowdown,” Nam said, vowing to find countermeasures in collaboration with the land ministry.

The National Police Agency has recently received requests for investigation into 106 suspected jeonse scams from the land ministry, and will soon launch a probe into the cases, officials said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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