A Salem man who conned nine groups of victims out of thousands of dollars by posing as a landlord for an apartment he didn't own was sentenced to three years in state prison on Friday morning in Salem Superior Court.
Judge Howard Whitehead sentenced Jayson Fallis, 35, to no less than three years and no more than three years and one day - with 220 days credit for time served since his arrest - followed by five years of probation.
Fallis pleaded guilty to nine counts of larceny over $250 - each of which carried a possible term of up to five years - for posing as the landlord of an apartment in order to take money from prospective tenants throughout November of 2011. He had previously been evicted from the apartment, located on Boston Street.
He will be required to pay $13,790 in restitution to the victims - the $12,500 he stole plus $1,290 one of his victims needed to spend to obtain a place to live as a direct result of the scam - and also undergo drug evaluation and random screenings as a condition of his probation.
Assistant Essex District Attorney Melissa Woodard read impact statements from a handful of the victims, which told a story of victims - including couples, single mothers and one woman who dipped into her 401k to secure the apartment - being left destitute, and in some cases homeless just weeks before Christmas.
Woodard was seeking a sentence of six to nine years.
"He was conniving, malicious, and gave no thought to how he was impacting others' lives," Woodard said.
Woodard's accounts from police reports of the incidents painted the picture of a methodical scheme in which Fallis would advertise the apartment for rent on popular classifieds website Craigslist, meet with the unwitting victims, and take deposits in the form of cash, money orders or personal checks made out to an acquaintance that he tricked into cashing for him.
When the victims came to pick up the keys to the apartment or tried to contact Fallis - who used multiple aliases when contacting the victims and signing fake rental agreements - he was nowhere to be found.
In requesting a sentence of two to three years, defense attorney Thomas Burke III described his client as a troubled man with past drug problems acting out of desperation after being robbed of cash by a woman who left him.
"He found himself alone with no way to support himself," Burke said. "He acted out of desperation."
Burke also spoke of Fallis' family - including his two young daughters - who have been impacted by his actions, and his commitment to rehabilitating and getting his life back on track.
"He recognizes the harm he has caused to the victims," Burke said. "But he's also caused irreparable harm to himself."
But Woodard described a man with a rap-sheet five pages long and a criminal history dating back to 1994, including assault and battery, firearm possession and time served on drug charges.
During sentencing, Whitehead described each individual charge as a "relatively minor case of larceny," but more damaging to these particular victims than is implied by the actual amount of money taken.
The sentence, according to Whitehead, is on par with others handed down in similar cases.
"It is a very serious crime with a very serious impact," Whitehead said.
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.