The CSU Rams Cycling Team training camp is back on track this week after a Craigslist scam drained the team's budget and defrauded them of a place to stay.
After a 21 hour drive, the team arrived in Summerland, CA in the early morning hours of December 7th unable to enter their rental house. George Simpson who had arrived earlier had been trying unsuccessfully to gain entry throughout the day and had alerted Rees York, team Vice President, to the issue. Rees and Ben O'Malley, the team President, who were still en route in the team van with the rest of the squad spent the duration of the trip trying to contact the hosts, to no avail. By the time the team arrived at the house at 1:00 A.M. it was apparent something was very wrong. The house was dark, the doors were locked and they had not had contact with the owners in days. The outlook looked pretty bleak on Sunday morning.
The team had spent $3185.00 on the house located on the Pacific coast, East of Santa Barbra and had little money left between them. Each of the college students had paid $325.00 to cover the house, gas and food and did not have much left in the way of cash. On a whim, Reese launched a GoFundMe campaign to help offset the expenses of the now abbreviated trip. The new plan was to hope for a few hundred dollars from the GoFundMe campaign, pool remaining money, stay in the hotel for a few more nights, make the best of a few days riding and head home. But then something happened, money started to roll in via the fundraiser. Within a day, CSU friends from across the country had nearly replenished their entire budget and they were able to again start searching for a house to stay in (as of this writing, 49 people had donated $3,700.00). After some searching, they found a house on Airbnb, coincidentally owned by a Fort Collins family. The 12 riders were able to move out of the two hotel rooms they had shared for two nights and into the new house located 30 miles further inland in the town of Santa Ynez. The gracious hosts gave them a break on the price and allowed all 12 of them to stay there.
Due to being further inland, the team has had more route possibilities and has logged about 250 miles since Sunday A.M. Today (Wednesday, January 11th) is a planned rest day so they plan to knock out an easy 20-mile ride and meet up with CSU alum, James Sutton, for a tour of SpaceX where he now works. After a few more big days of riding, the team will head back to Fort Collins on Saturday the 14th.
It doesn't seem likely that the funds from the original house, which was paid for in full on December 21st, will be recovered. Evidence including the lease, phone number, email address and electronic payment information has been turned over to the local sheriff and they have begun an investigation. There are not many clues beyond that. It does not appear that the actual owners of the house had any knowledge of the scam as they have the house listed elsewhere for $8000.00 per week.
According to O'Malley, any funds left after the trip will go directly back into the team to help pay for kits, other fundraising events and the CSU Crit and Circuit Race on March 25th and 26th.