The couches were nice, and the Orange County home where Ms. Ellman picked them up was even nicer.
Ms. Ellman ended up really liking Ms. Hutsona, who volunteered to deliver the couches to her home later that evening. But Ms. Hutsona had a tale of woe: Her family’s new Malibu apartment had mold! Ms. Ellman, who had planned on renting out her Palm Springs home to vacationers, took pity.
“I learned that they were having to move out of this house and that they didn’t have a next step,” Ms. Ellman said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty devastating. Whatever, whatever.’ I mean, that’s where, stupid me, I offered to let her stay in my place free of charge.”
But Ms. Ellman didn’t know that Ms. Hutsona had recently been evicted from the fancy Coto de Cazo home for trying to pay her $6,500 monthly rent with a bad check and by stopping payment on a second.
The women became close. Ms. Ellman allowed Ms. Hutsona’s family to crash on her couch when she and her husband had meetings in Los Angeles. When Ms. Hutsona, Mr. Vician and their two children were invited to tape an episode of the game show “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!” Ms. Ellman accompanied them as their guest and cheered them on.
Then, things — like Gucci purses — started going missing.
“She just knows how to navigate a person. She acts very reliable, and she becomes very close to you as though she’s your friend,” Ms. Ellman said. “She almost knows when you’re in a position to help, and she works it to the end. But she makes it where you offer it up. She works the angle that she’s in a bind, and she doesn’t know what to do.”
Fortunately, Ms. Ellman had filed a change-of-address form when she moved to Los Angeles. So the bill for a new credit card in her name, while it was addressed to the Palm Springs location, came directly to her. There were charges for a storage unit, car repairs and an Audi rental from Hertz.