Rachael Smith, Alleged Craigslist Apartment Swindler, Was Never Required to Put Up Bail

rachael smith.jpg
San Francisco Police Department
Rachael Smith didn't skip bail -- because she didn't have to pay any
Tonight, victims who fell prey to the same alleged con artist will gather in empathy and anger as they discuss how to move forward after being purportedly scammed out of thousands of dollars by Rachael Smith.

Smith, who was arrested July 22, is charged with concurrently leasing her apartment to at least 26 people, collecting the deposit and first month's rent, and then disappearing before handing over the keys. She advertised the apartment at California and 18th Street on Craigslist, and may have amassed more than $100,000.

Prior reports that Smith has skipped bail are inaccurate, however: She was released on her own recognizance and wasn't required to come up with any bail. While her whereabouts are unknown, police tell SF Weekly they have no reason to believe Smith won't make her next court date. Right? 

Mat Honan, a freelance writer and contributing editor to Wired magazine, is coordinating tonight's meetup. He expects that around 15 people will show up, including some who have gone through the civil court process, to share their stories and brainstorm options for what to do next. He hopes people he hasn't heard from yet will show up, too. Inspector John Monroe of the San Francisco Police Department will be in attendance at the 6:30 event, which will be held at 2515 Fillmore Street.

Victims have reported slightly varying accounts of how they were swindled out of their money. Honan says that he, like the others, found the listing on Craigslist. He contacted Smith, who claimed to be the owner of the building. She told Honan and his wife that she was in the process of moving to Los Angeles but didn't want to sell her San Francisco apartment. Interested, they stopped by and gave her their credit scores and employment information. They came back on July 9 to hand Smith the deposit and August rent checks, which totaled $5,100.

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Mat Honan and his pregnant wife are out $5,100
Scheduled to move in August 1, the couple began making plans to settle in, so they called a painter to discuss colors for the walls. After making a decision, they tried to call Smith but got her voicemail. It said she had a family emergency -- her mother had terminal cancer -- and she couldn't be contacted until July 28.


The 28th passed, and the couple still hadn't heard from her, despite attempts to contact her via e-mail and phone. Now suspicious, they reviewed the lease. It revealed her purported Los Angeles address, so they looked it up on Google Maps -- and no such home address existed.

Soon they dropped by the apartment and ran into others who said the same thing had happened to them. After contacting the police, they realized Smith had been purportedly scamming people as far back as February.

The SFPD's Monroe tells SF Weekly that the judge granted Smith an "Own Recognizance" release -- meaning she didn't have to post bail. There are certain criteria you have to fit to receive an OR; a judge must be convinced, for instance, that you are not going to flee after the release. "How she made it was puzzling," Monroe said. Smith was booked for eight felonies, after all. But she had no prior record. Monroe thinks this is why she's free -- and he has no idea where she is.

Monroe adds thatt he has since received a phone call from a woman claiming to be Smith's mother. She asked him what had happened -- since Smith wouldn't tell her, she said -- and he told her he couldn't discuss it.

Then Monroe asked, "Do you have cancer?" Silence. Finally, she said "No."

Smith skipped a July court date related to a civil suit. But that's not Monroe's department; he's only involved in a criminal case. And while Smith could be in the Outer Richmond or Outer Mongolia, she isn't ostensibly breaking the law until she skips her forthcoming date in criminal court: Sept. 1.

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