A Craigslist scam targeting individuals searching for RV lots in the Williston, N.D., area has led to one arrest, Williston Police Department officials said.
According to a report by the Williston Herald, Sherri Jensen, 49, was charged in connection with the fraud Aug 17, according to a Williams County Court document provided by Williston Police Detective David Peterson. The charges, Conspiracy to Commit Theft and Theft of Property, are Class C felonies.
Ramona Palin, originally of Montana, said she was a victim of the scam and sent $300 as a moneygram before realizing that the information in the Craigslist posting was falsified.
Palin said a real RV park – Williston Village – is the Google Map location on the posting, which calls the site, “Williston Valley.” When she went to see the site, which is under construction, she realized the scam after talking to management for the actual park.
When Palin initially asked the individual on Craigslist whether her dog would be allowed and if she could build a mudroom, she was informed that would be fine. But the real rules at the Williston Village park are different.
“They agreed to everything and that is not the park rules,” Palin said.
Palin said one of the individuals involved in the scam was even taking interested people on tours of the construction site of the actual park.
An ad provided by the Williston Police Department and posted Aug. 9 is titled, “$795 Williston Valley RV Park is Opening Soon!!! (2 Miles from Walmart).”
The ad asks for a $300 security deposit and posts a contact number.
Palin said individuals involved in the scam have several 701 phone numbers across more than one Craigslist ad.
Craigslist warns of possible fraud at the top of ads by saying, “Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally! Beware any arrangement involving Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfer, or a landlord/owner who is out of the country or cannot meet you in person.”
On Sept. 1, people in Williston, N.D., will officially be banned from living in RVs or campers inside city limits.
According to a report by KFYR TV, Bismarck, that means an estimated 400 people are about to be forced out of town – most coming to Williston because of the area’s oil boom. People are scrambling to find open lots for their RVs outside of town before deadline, but there simply aren`t any available.
A huge RV park north of town was supposed to be completed by Sept. 1, but it`s still under construction, and people are starting to get worried.
“If you are living in a camper in someone`s backyard, you need to be making plans to move in the next two weeks, because we are going to be enforcing that ordinance,” said Mayor Ward Koeser.
One of those individuals is Dan Corona, who lives with his wife and their daughter Lexi inside their RV.
“It was some rough living at the beginning, but now in the RV it`s a lot better,” he said. “But now they`ve got the law coming up on and we don`t know where to go.”
They`ve been trying to find a place to live, but every RV park they`ve checked is full.
The new park will have 700 lots, but only 180 of those will be available by early September. That means over 200 people will have no place to live.
“It`s going to be close. If we`re a few days off and the park isn`t quite ready I think the police will be flexible. But we are going to start enforcing it around the first of September,” Koeser said.
People living in campers in Williston, N.D., will have to get rolling, but they have a few months to find a new place to park.
The Williston City Commission on Tuesday (June 26) unanimously approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to live in an RV outside of a designated RV park, the Dickinson Press reported.
Campers in residential areas will have to relocate by Sept. 1 and RVs in commercial or industrial areas will have until Nov. 1.
The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $500 fine for each day of noncompliance.
Commissioners have said the hundreds of RVs around the city create health and safety hazards. In previous meetings, they have cited cases of people urinating outside their campers, inappropriately dumping waste and illegally hooking up to utilities.
Several RV parks in the Williston area are under construction to serve the oil and shale exploration workers, but what they will charge for rent is unclear. Mayor Ward Koeser said he’s heard rent may be $750 to $800 per month.
Paul Miller, who lives in an RV parked in a church driveway, said the rent is too steep for service workers like him and he expects many will leave town.
“I’ve come to say goodbye to the city if this law passes,” Miller said.
He told commissioners he wishes the city would have charged campers a weekly or monthly fee until the RV park rates came down to a reasonable amount.
Miller, who said his employer didn’t want him to say publicly where he works, plans to continue working in Williston this summer and move to Montana before Sept. 1.
He predicts that lines in restaurants and other businesses will only get longer as a result of the ordinance.
“It’s going to hurt this city of Williston,” Miller said.
Koeser said he’s received public comments on both sides of the RV ban, but an increasing number of comments have been concerns and frustrations about the RVs.
“I needed to protect our residents who have lived here, who pay taxes here,” said Koeser, adding that approving the ordinance was difficult for commissioners. “I need to protect the quality of life I think they deserve.”
Many of the construction workers building Williston’s permanent housing live in RVs at work sites.
The ordinance allows building contractors to apply for $200 monthly RV permits to accommodate those workers. That will be reevaluated in a year.
The ordinance does not affect people living in cars or other vehicles.
Williston Police Chief James Lokken said the department will determine how to enforce the ordinance. Officers may initially give out warnings.
“It’s going to be tough,” Lokken said. “We’re just hoping people will move on their own.”