Man broke into home, rented it out in elaborate scheme: cops

This suspect really overstayed his unwelcome visit.

A Washington state man broke into a home and essentially made it his own, hanging pictures of himself and sparking its fireplace before duping unsuspecting would-be renters out of nearly $6,000, police said.

Matthew Robert Paul, 35, is facing several charges, including theft and obtaining a signature by deception, in connection to a scheme police say he operated out of a Snohomish County home on Hermosa Beach Road, KIRO reports.

Investigators said Paul broke into the home in April 2017 knowing that its owners were vacationing in Mexico at the time. He then took elaborate steps to outfit the home as his own, hanging pictures of himself on walls and even checking references of prospective renters in an attempt to appear as its legitimate owner, according to charging documents obtained by the station.

Police said five people were victimized by Paul’s scheme, paying him up to $5,825 to rent and remodel the residence.

Matt Dunn, whose parents own the home, said he suspects Paul found a spare key and used it to get inside.

“To hear something like that really made me mad,” Dunn told the station. “Just using somebody’s house is dirt-baggish to begin with. Going the extra mile and trying to gain from it? It’s really crazy.”

Evelyn Werner, who lives next door, said Paul told neighbors that he was a family friend who had been asked to housesit.

“That didn’t seem strange or peculiar to this,” Werner said. “He seemed like a normal kind of guy. He befriended us and told us he was a friend.”

Werner said one of the victims asked her about the property when Paul could not be located. Police showed up at the residence the following day, she said.

“The tribal police came to the back door to interview us and we just went, oh my goodness,” Werner told KIRO. “I guess it hurts my heart that people will go to such extremes to take advantage of innocent, trusting people.”

Police said Paul also asked a man to cash checks from renters in exchange for drugs. Paul also stole thousands of dollars in electronics from the home, police said. He’s expected to appear in court on April 19, KIRO reports.

Charges against Paul were filed in March in Snohomish County Superior Court, The Daily Herald reports. Paul, who was booked into jail on a warrant after failing to appear for his arraignment, has pleaded not guilty to the allegations.

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