Rental scheme uncovered in Westfield

At least four persons have rented the second floor apartment at 9 W. School St. but the landlord, who has recently been arrested, had not allowed any of them to move in . (Photo by Carl E. Hartdegen)
At least four persons have rented the second floor apartment at 9 W. School St. but the landlord, who has recently been arrested, had not allowed any of them to move in . (Photo by Carl E. Hartdegen)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WESTFIELD NEWS) – A city man who threatened to harm himself was arrested after a brief standoff with police Thursday evening.

City police report that officers had been seeking Sergio Miacola, 56, of 9 W. School St., after three complainants reported that they had rented an apartment from him but had not been allowed to move in.

The apartment at 9 West School St. came to the attention of police on June 27 when a resident came to the station to complain that she had had paid the landlord a $880 deposit representing her first month’s rent on June 1 after agreeing to rent the apartment and planning to move in on June 15.

City Hall records show that Sergio and Arlene Miacola own the house where the second floor apartment is located and show that tax bills are sent to the owners there. Other records show that Arlene Miacola died May 5, 2008.

The woman told Officer William Cavanaugh that when she spoke with Sergio Miacola on June 12 he said that the apartment needed to be inspected on June 27 before she could move in. The complainant paid the man an additional $1,300 at that time but he refused to sign a lease.

The woman showed Cavanaugh receipts totaling $2,180 and said that she received a text message from the landlord on June 27 which said that the apartment had failed the inspection and said that he would contact her on July 1 to discuss the matter.

The prospective tenant told Cavanaugh that Miacola refused to speak with her further saying that he would be out of the state until June 30 and she has not been able to speak with him since.

Cavanaugh reports that when he attempted to call the owner he found his phone had been turned off.

Det. Sgt. Stephen K. Dickinson started to look into the matter and on June 30 went the look for the owner at the house. The owner was not there but Dickinson found another hopeful tenant waiting to speak with Miacola.

Dickinson said that the Holyoke woman told him that she and her and her mother had rented the apartment from Miacola and they had paid him a total of $1,860. She said she had been told on June 27, when she paid him the last installment of their initial payment, to contact him on June 30, after the apartment had been inspected, to get the key and a rental agreement.

She told Dickinson that she had been waiting at the apartment for hours to meet him but he had not arrived.

Dickinson advised her of the apparent scam that in progress and advised her to go to the station to report her experience and she complied.

The next day, when Dickinson again went to the house looking for Miacola, he again encountered a hopeful tenant with a similar tale.

The West Springfield man said that he had paid Miacola a total of $2,625 for his first and last month’s rent and a security deposit and had planned to move in on June 27.

He said that when he called Miacola on that day the man said that the apartment was not ready and said that he could move in on July 1.

The man told Dickinson the landlord was not there when he arrived to move in and when he called Miacola’s cellphone a recording said that the customer was no longer available.

Dickinson advised him to go to the police station to file a report.

Dickinson said that he had tried to make contact with Miacola “just to get his side of the story” but said “every time I went back I found another victim.”

A fourth victim was discovered after detectives posted a notice about the scam on Facebook.

Dickinson said that while looking for Miacola he found indications that the man had been intentionally hiding and had taken to parking his vehicle some distance from his house and entering via a back door.

He said that on Thursday evening the man’s vehicle was found to be parked on Franklin Street so, after stationing an officer to keep an eye on the car, he and other officers went to the house where there was no answer at any of the doors.

He said that he saw that a pool ladder had been placed against the house leading to a partially open window and when Det. James Renaudette looked inside he saw that the room appeared to have been ransacked.

He also heard sounds which indicated someone was inside although there was still no response to officers knocking and calling out at the various doors to the house.

The officer then entered the house and found Miacola on the kitchen floor, armed with a knife and threatening to kill himself.

Dickinson said that the man had positioned himself behind a kitchen counter in a constricted space where it was difficult to approach him quickly and was holding the knife to his chest.

He said that he was able to convince Miacola to put the knife down but, as soon as an officer moved, he picked up the knife and again threatened to harm himself.

Dickinson said that he consulted with another officer in the kitchen and told him that he would again persuade Miacola to put down the knife. He instructed the officer to shoot Miacola with his Taser as soon as he relinquished the knife.

Dickinson was able to again convince Miacola put he knife on the floor next to him and, after the officer fired his Taser, a detective moved in and took custody of the weapon.

At the station, Miacola was interviewed and confessed to his crimes explaining that he has a gambling problem.

“He knew he did things wrong”, Dickinson said, and said that the man also identified a fourth victim who had already contacted detectives.

Her experience was similar to what the other victims reported except she said that Miacola had told her that she could not move in on the originally scheduled date, June 12, because a pipe had burst in the bathroom.

She said that she became suspicious when she attempted to arrange for cable television service and was told that a service visit was already scheduled under another name.

She said that she confronted Miacola about the cable installation issue and was unsatisfied with his explanations so she demanded he return the $2,625 she had paid him. She said that he agreed to return the money she had paid him in cash but did not, later claiming to have been involved in a terrible accident.

The woman said that she reported the incident to the Attorney General’s office and initiated a civil action in housing court.
Dickinson asked that any additional victims who have been victimized by Miacola report their experience to police by calling 562 5411.

Miacola was arrested for larceny of property valued mote than $250 by false pretenses and three charges of larceny of property valued more than $250 by a single scheme. Bail was set at $2,000 and he was held at the police station pending arraignment in Westfield District Court today.

Because of his actions at the time of his arrest, an officer was detailed to maintain a suicide prevention vigil while he is in police custody.

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