MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Sheriff's deputies arrested a Midtown man with a three-year track record of posing as a leasing agent to steal rental deposits.
Sheriff fugitive squad officers arrested John Ferguson, 46, on two counts each of criminal simulation and theft of property $1,000-2,500. Ferguson is accused of misleading property management companies into believing he is a licensed leasing agent. In actuality, he has never held a real estate license. He deceived the companies into hiring him to recruit renters so that he could collect their deposits, then vanish with the money, according to investigators and to property management officials assisting an on-going WMC Action News 5 investigation.
"The fact that [WMC Action News 5] actually dug it up and followed up on it was enough for us to get warrants and go after him," Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Earle Farrell.
Deputies arrested Ferguson three weeks after Andy Wise's original investigation, in which Wise confronted Ferguson on camera with a state administrative judge's order. The order levied $5,000 in fines against Ferguson for five separate civil violations since 2014. Each violation accuses Ferguson of acting as a real estate leasing broker for property owners, collecting rental deposits, then disappearing with the money when he "...was not licensed to perform such actions."
"What he's doing is illegal," said Kevin Walters, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance and the Tennessee Real Estate Commission.
"Yeah, I'm not interested. I'm not talking to you, OK?" Ferguson said to Wise before going back inside his apartment at 224 Hawthorne Street after a confrontation on May 1.
Chris Hogan, a prospective renter who paid Ferguson a nearly $1,300 rental deposit only to discover he was a fake, was happy to hear about his arrest.
"It's not right for someone to be out here manipulating and taking advantage of people, so that's a good thing, and I'm happy about that," Hogan said. The property management company who had hired Ferguson under false pretenses reimbursed Hogan.
Ferguson bailed out of jail on a $10,000 bond, according to Shelby County Criminal Court records. The records indicated he is scheduled to re-appear in court June 5 for an attorney hearing.