Published: Jul 26, 2012 10:46 AM EDT

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.- Charlotte County Sheriff’s Economic Crimes Unit detectives Wednesday arrested a Port Charlotte woman for renting homes through R. Zobel Property Management, Inc., and not paying homeowners and keeping renter deposits. Crystal Leigh Stott, 31, of 3541 Port Charlotte Blvd., was charged with Grand Theft and Operating Without a Valid Real Estate License. Detectives say that this investigation has nothing to do with Zobel Real Estate on Olean Boulevard in Port Charlotte.

On June 25, CCSO responded to a theft/fraud call to a home in the 11000 Block of Alcott Avenue, Englewood. The victim said she looked on Craigslist for a rental and decided on a Belem Street home in Deep Creek. From the internet ad, she contactedRobert Zobel, 42, owner of the rental company. The Englewood victim met in late May with Zobel and his assistant Stott. They told her they needed a $500 deposit and $100 application fee. The victim gave cash and got a receipt.

The Englewood victim rented a U-Haul and drove to the Deep Creek home to move in on June 22; neither Zobel nor Stott showed up. A few days later Stott called and said she and Zobel were out of town and there was a mistake on the move-in date. The victim canceled their services and demanded her money back; she never heard from them again. Zobel’s business address was 3508 Tamiami Trail which is now vacant.

The victim searched tax records and contacted the Deep Creek property owner who lives in New York. The owner said Zobel was no longer her property manager because he hasn’t been paying her rent money due. She terminated Zobel as her property manager on June 30. Detectives contacted the owner who reaffirmed Zobel was no longer her property manager. She said Zobel agreed to the termination and told her he was leaving the area anyway. She demanded her keys, garage door opener, and all monies due her; nothing was ever returned by Zobel. Further investigation by detectives learned that Stott was the live-in girlfriend of Robert Zobel.

Detectives contacted the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) who regulates and licenses the Property Management Industry. DBPR reported they had received calls concerning Zobel and his company conducting business without a license. Zobel’s license was canceled April 1 for not meeting training or schooling requirements and was no longer valid. A check on Stott found she was conducting business and acting as a broker/property manager without a license. Detectives also contacted the Florida Division of Corporations and learned R. Zobel Property Management Inc., was not licensed to solicit property management clients.

ECU detectives have been unable to locate Zobel at this time, but did conduct surveillance on Stott’s home Wednesday and observed her leaving in a 2006 Jeep SUV owned by Zobel. A traffic stop was made, backup deputies arrived, Stott was arrested, and the Jeep was towed and impounded.

Stott told detectives she was Zobel’s assistant and responsible for the money and bookkeeping for R. Zobel Property Management since late 2010. Detectives said Zobel had three business accounts and Stott deposited rents and security deposits from tenants into these accounts. Detectives said Stott transferred money and wrote checks to herself, signed by Zobel, in support of her drug habit and spent nearly $36,000 collected from tenants and homeowners the past several months. Stott was transported to the Charlotte Count Jail; she posted a $5,000 bond and was released.

ECU detectives believe several other renters-owners in Charlotte County may have been victims in this fraud investigation and may not know it. Additional charges and arrests are pending at this time. If anyone has had contact with R. Zobel Property Management, Inc., as a renter or owner, please call the CCSO at 941-639-2101.