Swindled victims thought they were renting a Tulalip house

While the real owners were away, a man allegedly hung his photos on the wall and advertised the property.

TULALIP — A suspected burglar hung framed pictures of himself on the walls of a house on the Tulalip Indian Reservation while the owners were on vacation, in a scheme to trick people into thinking the house was for rent, according to charging papers.

He’s charged with the theft of thousands of dollars and obtaining signatures by deception.

The single-story home on Hermosa Beach Road has a fireplace and a 240-square-foot deck overlooking Tulalip Bay.

Matthew Robert Paul, 35, did not know the owners, but he heard they would be out of the country in spring 2017, according to the charges. Tribal police believe the Marysville man broke in as part of an elaborate plot where he advertised the home for rent, put photos of himself on the wall and lit the fireplace for home showings.

Tulalip police found five victims of the swindle. Paul introduced himself as “Ryan,” according to the charges. He reportedly said his parents had gone out of town and left him in charge of renting out the place. He collected $45 in fees along with personal information from each applicant, court papers say. He called their references. Two men were informed that they’d been selected as the new tenants. According to the charges, Paul took $5,500-plus in cash and cashier’s checks from them, for rent, a damage deposit and the costs of new flooring and remodeling.

Paul told the men to make out the checks to his uncle because he owed him money. Bank security footage showed the supposed uncle cashing the checks. Officers tracked him down, and he told them Paul gave him $20 worth of heroin to turn the checks into cash. Outside the bank, he gave the money to Paul, he reported to police.

The homeowners returned to find their TV, laptops and tools were missing, an estimated theft of about $1,900.

Both of the tricked tenants lost all of their savings, and had to stay with friends and family until they could save up enough money to move out again, according to police.

Charges were filed in March in Snohomish County Superior Court. Paul was booked into the county jail on a warrant after he didn’t show up for his arraignment. He pleaded not guilty last week. He was released without being required to post bail, as he awaits trial.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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