May 23, 2014 2:36 PM
Tucson - Leonard Giso, the man his victims call the "Craigslist Con Man," showed no emotion Thursday after a Pima County jury found him guilty of all four felony charges against him, two each for fraud and forgery.
The 51-year old former fugitive was convicted of taking thousands of dollars from would-be renters for Tucson apartments he advertised on Craigslist, but did not own or rent. Giso had gained access to the apartments from the unwitting owner of the two complexes he advertised.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators were in Judge Kenneth Lee's courtroom for the four-day trial, after reporting on this story for almost a year.
Witnesses testified that Giso took their money for the first month's rent and security deposit, insisting they pay cash only, and when time came to get their apartment keys, they instead got a litany of excuses.
Sam Stawisky, a would-be renter, testified he paid Giso $550 for an apartment at Crescent Ridge. Stawisky said when he texted Giso to ask when he could move in, "He (Giso) said that they were still working on the apartment." Another time, Stawisky said Giso texted him that he couldn't meet-up to give Stawisky the keys, saying his mother had a stroke and he had to go out of state to help take care of her.
Steve Fredericks, another hopeful renter who paid Giso $650, testified, "I was being led in circles. Every time we agree to do something, nothing comes together."
Winfred Barnes, who was helping his stepson with his move, said, "It was delayed. It was always delayed for some reason."
Prosecutor Ben Mendola called eight witnesses, including several would-be renters.
Mendola said in his closing argument, "He ripped these folks off. Through misrepresentation, with his plan, he took money. And gave them these garbage contracts in order to convince them to give him money."
Giso's lawyer, public defender Clay Kamm, called no witnesses. But Kamm said Giso wasn't hiding anything.
Kamm said in his closing argument, "Why would Leonard stay in contact with these people? Why would he use his name? Why would he show someone his id?"
It took the jury just one hour to find Giso guilty.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators interviewed two jurors after their verdict. Justin Legler said, "I feel if he had paid back at least one person, that would've given me some doubt as to whether or not this was an intent to defraud people or not. And that didn't happen."
Juror Al Soderman told us, "I just think it was a preponderance of things that was the presumptions that he made, the representations that he made, that had no basis in fact."
Giso limped out of court, the result of an injury sustained while being extradited from suburban Atlanta, where he was caught last fall. He might have a long time to heal. After turning down a plea deal that would have given him no more than 12 and half years, Giso now faces a maximum of 100 years. Sentencing is scheduled for June 20th.
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