Four Argentinian J-1 workers scrambling for housing after falling victim to a Craig’s List rental scam
VAIL — The four Argentinian workers are in remarkably good humor for being the victims of a Craig’s List rental scam.
Juan Monasterio, Victoria Semensi, Agustina McLean and Rosario Burgos traveled more than 30 hours from their beach resort towns and summer in Argentina to work this ski season in Vail and Beaver Creek.
“We came here to earn money. We came to work,” Semensi said.
They left Argentina Monday night and landed in Denver Tuesday evening. They caught a ride with CME to East Vail where they thought they had nailed down a place to live.
They were familiar with Craig’s List scams and had done their due diligence, McLean said.
They knocked on the door expecting to be at their ski season home, Unit 22. A young woman opened it and grew increasingly more confused as they told her that they were supposed to live there.
It was news to her.
“This is my place. I rented it,” she told them.
That’s when they realized they might have been the victims of a Craig’s List scam.
They hung around for half an hour, but Unit 22 would not be a permanent solution.
The CME driver, whose name they could not remember but wish they could, knew a guy who knows an Argentinian guy who lives here. He took a chance and drove them to their place. They knocked on the door, explained their problem and asked, “Please! Can we stay here?”
It might have helped that they were exhausted and crying.
“We’ve been planning this trip for almost a year, Monasterio said. “We left everything for this trip, family jobs, everything.”
They’re also out thousands of dollars.
You’re welcome here
The Vail police station isn’t a homeless shelter, but the four were homeless and taking shelter there.
The four talked to different people. Everyone told them the same thing. “Go to the police.”
As they were wandering around trying to figure out what to do next, they met an Argentinian woman in the Vail Transportation Center. She also told them to contact the police. The advice surprised them.
“In Argentina we cannot trust the police,” Agustina said.
While they were holed up in Vail town hall, Vail town staffers brought them food, gift cards for a local coffee shop and all sorts of leads on a place to lay their heads.
Through it all they’re still happy they’re here.
“The people are the best thing. Everyone is very nice. We have been going through a lot, and people have been nice and kind,” Agustina said. “I think we met the only bad person in Vail. People here are nice and happy. I think this Ruby is the only bad person.”
“It is really strange if someone cheats you in Vail,” Agustina said.
The alleged scammer is a man named Ruby and they’ve been trying to reach him for two days. No one ever answers the phone.
The voicemail says in an irritatingly happy tone, “We’re sorry. This person is not available right now. Please leave a message.”
“I’ll be they’re not sorry,” they said, listening to the message again in the Vail police station lobby.
Eagle County Housing Director Jill Klosterman said they saw a few scams last year. This is the first this year.
This is Monasterio’s and Semensi’s second turn on the J-1 visa program. Two years ago they worked in the Lake Tahoe area.
“It was perfect,” Semensi said.
Other friends have done J-1 visa trips in the U.S., with little or no problems.
Most of their parents back in Argentina don’t know they’re going through this. They don’t want them to worry, although all parents worry all the time anyway.
Three more Argentinians who plan to work through the season will soon join the four.
“If we found a place for seven people, it would be a miracle,” Agustina said.
“We’ll find something. We have to stay positive,” Semensi said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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