Vail Valley embraces scammed Argentinian workers |

Vail Valley embraces scammed Argentinian workers

These four Argentine J-1 workers were the victims of a Craigs List rental scam, but are wram, dry and happy in an Edwards townhouse after Vail Valley locals came to their rescue. When their story broke the Vail Daily was bombarded by more than four dozen phone calls and emails from people willing to help.
Randy Wyrick| |

You remember those four Argentinian kids left homeless in Vail by a Craigslist rental scam?

They’re great, and they would like to say thank you for all the help and support.

Between the time the story hit the Vail Daily website Thursday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, 49 locals called or emailed the Vail Daily offering to help them, some with temporary solutions, some permanent — or at least seasonal.

One of those locals, Sally and George Austen, put them in their Edwards townhouse.

Juan Monasterio, Victoria Semensi, Agustina McLean and Rosario Burgos are warm, dry, happy and working.

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“It’s warm,” Semensi said smiling. “People here are so nice.”

How this happened

After traveling more than 30 hours from Mar del Plata, an Argentinian beach resort, the four arrived in Vail late at night to learn that someone else already leased the apartment they thought they had rented. They were the victims of a Craigslist rental scam.

Another seasonal worker already here from Argentina took them in. They were advised to go the Vail police, and did.

While the four were holed up in the lobby of the Vail police station, they scoured classified ads and online listings, although cautiously with those online listings since a Craigslist rental scam is how they landed in this mess.

Between phone calls to potential landlords, they were also talking to friends back in Argentina, some of whom would leave within hours to head to the Vail Valley to work the ski season.

One of those friends, Florencia Marmol, spotted a Vail Daily classified ad placed by the Austens.

Fieldhouse fun

Logistics sometimes resist humans. As you might recall, a couple storms blew through last week that required some digging and snow removal before anyone could go anywhere.

“Where are you right now?” Sally Austen asked by phone that morning.

“We’re at Freedom Park,” they replied, reading the big stone Freedom Park sign.

Austen suggested they go inside the Colorado Mountain College building where at least they’d be warm and dry. Because they didn’t know which building was which, they wandered to the WECMRD fieldhouse a couple hundred yards in the other direction.

It was early in the day. While the fieldhouse was still locked up, it was staffed up.

The WECMRD folks let them in, sat them around a table, listened to their tale, and made a breakfast run to a local restaurant and brought them back food.

Austen picked them up, and asked them questions such as, “What do you need when you’re looking for a place to stay?”

Because it’s December in Colorado, the replies were pretty basic.

“Warm heat!” they said. “Water too! Water would be great!”

They have all that and more. There’s even a fireplace.

“We arrived and we were so relaxed and happy,” Rosario said.

Moms worry

They made a video showing both their 3-bedroom condo as well as Austen, their rescuer. They emailed the video back home to their moms. While they were going through all this, a couple of them did not tell their mothers, saying they didn’t want their moms to worry.

“My mom was the only one who knew it,” Victoria said.

Meanwhile, back in Mar del Plata, Argentina, their original story was trending.

Agustina’s mom was at the beach with the family when she heard about it and Agustina called.

“Everything is resolved, but she still cried. She’s a good mom,” Agustina said.

Juan’s mother is an attorney and wants to sue someone. Craigslist maybe. Ruby certainly, although they say, “He’s a ghost.” Ruby is the name the Craigslist scammer used.

Jobs are the easy part

As for jobs, that was also a challenge. Two who were scheduled to work at the Cascade. They won’t, because the Cascade is being remodeled and isn’t open.

Not to worry. This is Vail at the height of the ski season and there are almost as many jobs as snowflakes.

Agustina was working at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek took them with her for her first day of work. The wise Park Hyatt folks hired both of them on the spot. Rosario is working at Venture Sports.

It’s a 20-minute walk to a bus stop and a couple buses to their jobs in Beaver Creek.

“It’s easy,” Juan said.

“We feel very, very safe,” Rosario said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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