Stranger who moved into Chicago home and refuses to leave says she was scammed

The homeowner says this story struck a chord with people nationwide because "they know it can happen to anyone."

BySamantha Chatman KABC logo
Monday, June 20, 2022
Stranger who moved into Chicago home reveals why she refuses to leave
A stranger who moved into a Chatham, Chicago house for sale on the South Side and refuses to leave said she was scammed.

CHICAGO -- There is an update on a story about the Chicago woman who said a stranger moved into her home and refuses to leave.

It's one that had people all over the country talking. Now, community leaders are involved, and the woman living inside the home is sharing her side of the story for the first time.

Activist Andrew Holmes along with Chicago 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer looked for answers as they visited the home owned by Danielle Cruz.

Cruz made national headlines by saying a stranger moved into her property and refused to leave.

Holmes saw the story and was outraged. He called reporter Samantha Chatman at our sister station WLS-TV immediately, eager to get involved.

A Chicago woman says a stranger moved into her vacant Chatham property and is refusing to leave, and police say they can't do anything about it.

"If I go on vacation and all of a sudden all of the doors and the locks are changed, it's wrong. People have earned their way to buy a home. You don't have a right to take anyone's home. I don't care who you are," said Holmes.

This all started when Cruz put her house on the market several weeks ago. Cruz said shortly after, she got a call from her contractor informing her that all of her locks were changed and an unknown woman had moved inside.

Since this story first aired, Cruz said she's heard from people all over the country.

"Why do you think this story struck a chord with so many people?" Chatman asked.

"Because they know it can happen to anyone," Cruz explained.

Cruz said when she learned the woman moved into her home, she called the police. But officers said because the woman presented a lease, it's a civil matter. Police referred Cruz to the eviction courts.

Cruz said she's never met the woman before and never given her a lease. She believes the woman inside is a squatter.

Sawyer also saw the story and decided to get involved. The home is in his ward.

"What we need to do is work on state law, our city partners, to make sure we have outlined the rights and responsibilities of owners as it relates to trespassers. They have more rights currently than the legal owners do," he said.

Sawyer and Holmes joined Cruz to get answers. After knocking on the door, they said they saw the woman in question and another adult with a child, but no one wanted to come out and talk.

"It's not just that we want to put them out on the street. We want to make sure they're OK as well. But we do want to restore balance to the rightful owners," said Sawyer.

Moments later, the woman inside the home called police. An officer arrived to the home.

After the officer left, the woman inside invited Holmes to come in. He was in the home for about 40 minutes.

Holmes convinced the woman to call Chatman to explain what happened.

Her side of the story

The woman inside said she is a victim of a scam. She said she paid someone $3,000 upfront to rent the Chicago property on a month-to-month basis.

She said she signed a lease and paid the person in cash. As for who gave her the lease, she said she can't locate or reach them now.

The woman inside said she isn't a bad person, and that she wouldn't just break into someone's home. While she plans to move out eventually, she said she wasn't going to just "up and leave" and end up on the street.

The woman inside said the only time Cruz and her husband talked to her was when they showed up with police. Since then, she said they haven't tried to work anything out with her.

Cruz said that is not true.

Praying for a solution

Cruz said she and her husband have done all they can to work something out with the woman inside.

"My husband, he offered her $1,000 to $2,000 to move out. She basically laughed in his face and said that she wanted $8,000 and she would leave," Cruz said.

Cruz said they simply don't have that kind of money to give away, especially to someone who was never their tenant.

"It honestly makes me really angry to know that she's still in there," she said.

Cruz said not only are the eviction courts backlogged, but she and her husband also can't afford an attorney. So, they're praying the woman will leave soon.

The woman living inside the home said she's willing to meet with Holmes and Sawyer to try to work something out. They said they are looking forward to meeting with her and hope to provide her with some assistance in relocating.

The woman inside said she never wanted to make the local news, let alone national, and that she just wants to be done with this situation.