What seemed like a dream home soon became a nightmare for three unsuspecting renters when a bogus Coral Springs real estate broker ran off with their security deposits, police said.

Rico Cox, 26, was charged with multiple counts of grand theft, obtaining property by fraud and acting as an unlicensed real estate broker. His bail was set at $21,000 in first appearance court on Friday.

According to a Coral Springs police report, Cox advertised an apartment for rent on Craigslist, using the name “Rico Negron.” He collected security deposits, including background check and application fees, from three renters in August and November.

Collectively, he took in $2,850 from the would-be tenants, the report said.

In June, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office also charged Cox with organized fraud and theft for allegedly taking $21,000 from a suburban Boca Raton man in a fraudulent lease-to-own transaction in which he posed as a realtor. Cox is scheduled for a Dec. 3 jury trial in that case, court records show.

In the Coral Springs cases, Cox gained access to an apartment in the 8300 block of Royal Palm Boulevard after reaching out to Controltek Corp, which owns the property. Police said the company gave him permission to show prospective clients the apartment, but he was ordered to collect no money and instead bring clients to the company for a commission.

Police said Cox met with the three renters separately, claimed to be the owner, then collected their deposits, police said.

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