Tenant screening reports, produced by tenant screening companies and used by landlords, are critical links to prevent fraud and limited losses, which are paid for by other tenants in rental buildings. A recent example of the benefits of tenant screening led to the arrest of a former police detective, who was busted for attempting to live rent-free in multiple rental houses and apartments.

On March 31, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a former detective sergeant for the Stoneham Massachusetts Police Department was “arrested and charged for allegedly providing false information in rental applications to fraudulently obtain three separate apartment leases for which he intentionally withheld rent payments.”

The DOJ charged Robert Kennedy, 53, of Stoneham, with one count of wire fraud. A tenant screening report tipped off landlords to the fraud.

Kennedy’s most recent landlord required him to submit to a tenant screening service, including a credit check and eviction history check, according to the release. Kennedy allegedly provided the birthday and social security number of a relative with the same name; prosecutors said his own information would have likely shown a history of collections, delinquent payments, defaults, and evictions.

According to the charging document, Kennedy defrauded his last three landlords by providing materially false and misleading information in his rental applications to obtain the respective apartment leases. After moving in, it is alleged that Kennedy would intentionally withhold rent payments, despite making $141,000 – $187,000 a year from the Stoneham Police Department. As a result, Kennedy lived in the apartments rent-free by allegedly taking advantage of the slow eviction process.

Specifically, it is alleged that Kennedy defrauded his most recent landlord by submitting materially false and fraudulent information during the rental application process. The landlord required Kennedy to submit to a tenant screening service, which included a credit check and eviction history check. Instead of providing his own date of birth and social security number to the tenant screening service – which would likely have shown Kennedy’s history of collections, delinquent payments, defaults and evictions – Kennedy allegedly provided the date of birth and social security number of a relative who shared his first and last name. The landlord relied on the information from the fraudulently obtained tenant screening report to approve Kennedy’s rental application and give Kennedy a lease for the apartment. It is further alleged that Kennedy immediately and intentionally violated the terms of the lease by giving the landlord bad checks for his rent and security deposit and failing to make subsequent rent payments. Kennedy lived in the apartment for approximately four months without making rent payments and currently owes the landlord approximately $14,000 in overdue rent.

Boston.com, a subsidiary of the Boston Globe reported that “Kennedy’s rocky renting history came to light in an NBC10 Boston investigation in early February [2023], which found that the former police officer was tied to eviction cases dating back 20 years.” NBC10 showed that “[o]ver the three-year period when Kennedy and his girlfriend were evicted from two different properties.” The NBC10 investigation also suggests possible fraud that Kennedy may have committed in seeking Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), a “state program that provides up to $10,000 of rental assistance to help keep people in their homes.”