Advertisement
  1. News

Fugitive Largo couple, three kids found in Las Vegas casino

David Johnson, 32 (left), and wife Nicole Johnson, 29, are wanted on Pinellas County arrest warrants, accused of leasing 1091 Lexington Court to at 18 families and scamming them out of $28,000. The fugutive couple and their three children were found in a Las Vegas casino, according to Largo police. [Courtesy of Largo Police Department]
Published Oct. 4, 2018

After more than three months on the run, a Largo couple accused of scamming 18 families out of $28,000 by renting them the same home have finally been found — in Las Vegas.

Nicole and David Johnson were arrested early Wednesday at 12:32 a.m., authorities said.

They were found with their three young children on the casino floor of the Linq Hotel and Casino along the Las Vegas strip, authorities said.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said the couple was detained by hotel security, which suspected them of fraud. When Las Vegas police officers showed up, they discovered arrest warrants for the couple from Pinellas County.

It's unclear what fraudulent activity tipped off hotel security and led to the family being detained.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Police: Couple leased someone else's home to 15 families at same time

Nicole Johnson's parents, Christopher and Lisa Dominick of New York, had hired a private investigator to track down their grandchildren. They had just met with him in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon and were riding the train back to Long Island when they got a call from Las Vegas police.

Nicole Johnson gave the officers her mother's phone number.

"We were hysterical," Christopher Dominick said. "It's a horrible nightmare, it's beyond heart wrenching."

The Largo scheme unraveled June 19 when four families showed up at the home for move-in day at the same time, police said. One of those families drove down from Indiana with all their possession in a U-Haul trailer.

Two weeks later, Largo police obtained arrest warrants for David Johnson, 32, and wife Nicole, 30, who were believed to have fled to New York just days before the families attempted to move in.

The Las Vegas police say the children, a 6-year-old and 2-year-old twins, were with their parents in the casino when they were arrested. They have since been turned over to Child Protective Services where they are still in custody.

The grandparents flew to Las Vegas on Thursday evening. They had to get ready for a court hearing Friday to gain custody of their grandchildren. Christopher Dominick said the kids were separated because of their ages.

"The only good thing out of this is that they're found," the grandfather said. "Hopefully tomorrow will be a good reunion."

Here's how Largo police said the Pinellas scam unfolded: the Johnsons solicited 1091 Lexington Court for rent to prospective tenants via Craigslist and Facebook and signed multiple lease agreements. Each family paid the couple a deposit ranging from $1,000 to $4,300, police said.

Some families did everything they could to make sure they were signing legitimate leases. Instead, they signed documents forged with the names of Nicole Johnson's parents, the real owners of the 1,400-square-foot home. Police believe the family drove to New York in the grandfather's car, which was then reported stolen.

Back in Largo, the families who thought they had found a new home to live in were left to pick up the pieces. Some struggled to make ends meet.

Melissa Colon, a single mother with three children, found her family crammed into a single hotel room indefinitely.

The Indiana couple was Hannah Nelson, 27, and Tyree Higginson, 25. They got married 24 hours before they intended to move into the home. They traveled from Indiana and had to borrow money from the Johnson's next door neighbors so they could have enough gas money to return.

The Johnsons were booked into the Clark County Detention Center where they are being held without bail. Authorities there expect that it will take a month for Nicole and David Johnson to be extradited back to Pinellas County.

Contact McKenna Oxenden at moxenden@tampabay.com. Follow @mack_oxenden

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland talks about holding a cell phone to his ear as he talks with President Donald Trump as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, during a public impeachment hearing of Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators he pushed a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine because it was what the President wanted.
  2. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    Department of Education attorneys say the lower courts ruled properly in tossing the case.
  3. Bob Larson, 81, from St. Petersburg, raises his hand to indicate he has a match while playing Bingo during a meal with fellow seniors in Langer Hall at the Sunshine Senior Center in St. Petersburg. Also present (but not pictured) is his wife, Janet Larson, 74. The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas funds 15 congregate dining sites in Pinellas and Pasco counties. The sites offer hot meals and socialization for 6,000 seniors. The Sunshine Center is one of those sites. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Seniors are happy in their communities, but have concerns about health care, housing, transportation and support for caregivers
  4. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView use ground penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The mid-20th century Ridgewood Cemetery for the indigent and unknown was located on property later used to develop King High.
  5. Authorities say Rocky Ali Beamon strangled and stabbed 27-year-old Nicholas Anderson in January 2017 when they shared a cell at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton. Florida Department of Corrections
    Rocky Ali Beamon previously had been sentenced to life in prison for a 2005 murder in Hillsborough County.
  6. The tenth annual Shopaplooza returns to St. Petersburg for the Thanksgiving Day weekend, but this time at the Vinoy Park and with major changes. LocalShops1
    The annual festival highlighting everything local was previously held at Straub Park. But that’s not the only change this year.
  7. Photo of the sign of the Skyway Marina District in St. Petersburg. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
    The newest is being built on the site of the former Flamingo Resort.
  8. The Bookstore at the  Oxford Exchange during its First Friday event on 09/06/13. TIMES (2013)  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Plus other Instagram-worthy spots around Tampa Bay.
  9. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The special advisor to President Trump incorrectly stated Sondland’s role while appearing on national TV ahead of the EU ambassador’s testimony.
  10. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement