UPDATE: A woman convicted of scamming people out of thousands of dollars was sentenced Thursday.
Amanda Manzo was sentenced to 180 days in jail and five years probation. She will get credit for time served.
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Authorities have arrested a woman accused of taking people’s money to buy property that was never on sale and then running off with thousands.
Amanda Manzo was arrested for alleged land scams after a KSAT 12 news investigation. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office arrested Manzo on eight state jail felony warrants, four for theft and four for misapplication of fiduciary property, Wednesday afternoon.
The alleged victims said that, for months, Manzo has been connecting with them on social media and selling them land.
RELATED STORY: Families lose thousands of dollars in property investment for land never on sale
After KSAT’s story about two families who allegedly fell victim to the scams, others like Jim Huckleberry reached out to us. Huckleberry is the owner of Mi Casa Housing, which specializes in manufactured home sales.
“We brought Amanda in to help us locate real estate for our customers,” Huckleberry said.
According to Huckleberry, Manzo said she was a licensed realtor. But as we first told you, she was not licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission and is not in the system of the San Antonio Board of Realtors.
KSAT also reached out to the Texas Department of Housing. According to its records, in March 2017, Manzo was issued a salesperson's license, but in June 2017, her employer terminated her employment and notified the agency, which made her license invalid.
“She came in on a Sunday, and then we had customers calling us Monday and Tuesday and we started looking for her and couldn’t find her,” Huckleberry said.
Grace Soto was one of the customers calling after not hearing from Manzo.
“I gave her $5,000,” Soto said.
In 2017, Soto said she met Manzo on social media while looking for a new home. Just like with the other alleged victims, the deal was to give Manzo blank money orders. This time, Soto was given a receipt.
“I was giving her money, and she said, ‘Look, that’s why we don’t have people sign them. I just got this from another couple,’” Soto said.
Because of KSAT’s investigation, the list of alleged victims grew at the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.
“We became aware of cases as early as July 2017. My understanding is that this suspect was working for a legitimate company initially, but very soon after starting that employment, she began scamming people out of money. She was let go of that company for whatever reason, but the scams continued,” Sheriff Javier Salazar said.
Salazar said there may be other suspects involved in the case.
“You may get away with it for a little while, or one or two victims, but at some point we are going to catch up to you. At some point, you are going to go to jail,” Salazar said.
Salazar has some tips to avoid being scammed: “If you have someone that is posing as a legitimate businessperson, that’s not something that they are typically going to do, is ask you for a blank money order. If they don’t have a place of business, they want to meet you at a parking lot or at a fast food establishment somewhere, they may not be as legitimate as they are letting on to be.”
SABOR's 3 pieces of advice when buying property:
1. Before giving any money, do research about any property in which you wish to invest.
“You can also cross-reference it with the Sabor.com website or you can even go to Realtor.com, put in the address and if they give an MLS number, put in that MLS number,” former SABOR chairwoman Yvette Allen said.
2. SABOR has a list on its website of everyone who is a licensed real estate agent.
“Call two or three realtors, because even though we say every realtor is a good realtor and has your interest at heart, it just may not be a match,” Allen said. “Make sure you feel comfortable. Make sure they are answering all the questions you are asking.”
3. A check should always be to a title company, never a real estate agent.
“When someone is filling a contract, whether they are buying a home or getting an offer on a home, keep in mind these are Texas forms written by the Texas Real Estate Commission or Texas Association of Realtors, so you will see that written out,” Allen said.
For more ways to protect yourself, click here .
Have you been sold land by this individual? We’d like to hear from you. Contact the Defenders at firstname.lastname@example.org .