The fugitive couple who were arrested in a Las Vegas casino on Wednesday are accused of running a rental scam in Pinellas County.
Now they’re accused of running the same scam in Las Vegas.
Nicole and David Johnson rented the same Largo home to more than a dozen families in June, scammed them out of $28,000 and then took off with their kids, according to Largo police.
The three-month hunt for the family ended Wednesday, when Las Vegas police said the Johnsons and their three children were found after midnight on the casino floor of the Linq Hotel and Casino along the Las Vegas strip.
Largo police Detective Lara Young said her counterparts at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told her that the Johnsons were running a similar rental scam to the one they’re accused of running in Largo.
The detective said she was told the Johnsons met a tenant who they thought was giving them a rent payment — but it was actually an undercover Las Vegas officer. Police there didn’t tell Young what led them to look into the Johnsons.
Officials in Largo were surprised to find out the Johnsons had made their way to Vegas. They still thought they were hiding out in New York.
Largo police said the Johnsons ran a similar operation in Pinellas County, soliciting prospective tenants via Craigslist and Facebook and then signing multiple lease agreements before skipping town. The scheme unraveled when four families showed up at the same time on June 19, police said.
However, the Johnsons do not face any criminal charges in Las Vegas. They’re being held in the Clark County Detention Center on the Pinellas arrest warrants. In fact, police there said casino security suspected them of fraud and then called the police.
A Las Vegas police spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times that he did not have the arrest reports for the couple, so he could not answer any questions about their capture there or if charges will be pressed.
Largo authorities are wondering which jurisdiction will get to put the couple on trial first.
"We’re asking the question: Who gets them first?" Young said. "We’re hoping it’s us."
The couple has been on the run with their three children, a 6-year-old and 2-year-old twins. Largo police said up they had been hiding out in New York but within the past month made the trek to Las Vegas, where they’ve been staying in cheap hotels.
Las Vegas police say the children were turned over to the custody of Child Protective Services. Their grandparents (on the mother’s side) and owners of the Largo home traveled to Las Vegas last night to try and gain custody of the children. They did not return a request for comment Friday.
Nicole Johnson, 30, and husband David, 32, remain in the Clark County Detention Center, where they are being held without bail.
Contact McKenna Oxenden at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mack_oxenden