LA QUINTA – Luxe Vacation Homes was running a rental “Ponzi scheme” to pay off future rentals with current rentals.
“Imagine that, 50 houses, 45-thousand dollars for three weeks,” Quartez Wynn, a rental house manager, said.
Luxe Vacation Homes received fifty percent of every transaction they made, up front.
“That’s a lot of money,” Wynn said.
Renters, homeowners and officials have been unable to contact Justin Steubs, the owner of Luxe Vacation Homes.
Alex Roizen, a homeowner, said the situation is forcing those involved to back-track and double-book.
“Some of these people booked six months, a year in advance,” Wynn said.
On Wednesday, homeowners told KMIR they were nervous about two different renters showing up to the same house, with the same booking.
“For all I know, people could be showing up today or tomorrow,” Roizen said Wednesday.
As Roizen predicted, two renters, one with Airbnb and one with Luxe, booked the same house Thursday. The Luxe renters had to find somewhere else to stay.
“If you came further than Palm Springs, I would be pretty upset,” Wynn said.
Some are left wondering what the future is for Luxe.
“As the amount of money lost, or at least alleged to be lost goes up, the chance of being able to pay it back and not go to prison becomes less and less,” John Dolan, an attorney with California Desert Trial Academy College of Law, said.
The case has moved from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to the District Attorney’s office.
“They will evaluate, they will investigate and they will determine if a crime has been committed,” Dolan said.
He said the first step is to get in contact with Justin Steubs and the rest of the company.
“The people that pull scams, generally speaking, have thought about what happens when the scam is uncovered and usually they’re long gone,” Dolan said.
Dolan said the company could potentially be tried for theft and forgery.
“Be careful about who you allow to rent out your home,” Dolan said as advice. “It’s a lesson learned for a lot of people. It is not uncommon to see this kind of problem take place out here where homes are rented out.”
Roizen also said to be careful when searching for his vacation rental.
“If you’re on Airbnb or VRBO and want to book the White Palm Villa, don’t book the Luxe profile,” he said.
The case is under review and some homeowners are hiring attorneys on their own to pursue civil lawsuits.