Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

For Immediate Release:    
October 26 , 2009    

Apartment Rental Scam Uncovered by State

Unlicensed agent charged with stealing listings and threatening employees


CHICAGO – In a complaint filed today by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), an unlicensed real estate leasing agent, Thomas Tully, and several of his licensed associates have been charged with violations of the Real Estate License Act.  Tully, working from an unlicensed branch office of Agency Real Estate Brokerage, is alleged to have copied rental listings from Craigslist and posted them on his listing site or reposted them on Craigslist with his contact information as the agent without the permission or knowledge of the apartment or building owners.

The scam came to the attention of the State’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force, which is coordinated by IDFPR, when one of Tully’s employees complained that he threatened his employees with physical harm.  Tully is alleged to have threatened two employees by saying that he would “break every bone in [their] bodies.”  In its investigation, IDFPR found that, in addition to representing himself as an agent for these units, Tully would take the first month’s rent and pay it, in cash, as a ‘commission’ to his staff.   

“Reasonable regulation is designed to prevent precisely the type of behavior alleged in the Department’s complaint,” said Brent Adams, Acting Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation.  “Stealing listings, acting without a license, and threatening behavior run directly contrary to the professional standards established by the State’s laws.”
IDFPR alleges that Tully did not work alone.  Even though he does not have a license to work as a real estate agent, he is alleged to have hired and managed other agents (also unlicensed), and worked with a licensed real estate sales person, who allegedly described himself as the manager of that location.  The complaint also alleges that Tully had an ongoing business relationship with another licensed firm: Continuum Real Estate Brokers Corp. 

In addition to seeking a $25,000 fine from Tully for unlicensed practice, IDFPR has requested an order denying his pending application for a license.   IDFPR is also seeking disciplinary actions against Naval Ghai of Palatine, a licensed real estate salesman; licensed real estate broker Yelena Bernshtam, and the firm she owns, Continuum Real Estate Brokers Corp. of Chicago; licensed real estate broker Angel Morales and his firm, Agency Real Estate Brokerage, LLC, also of Chicago.  A copy of the complaint is available here.