BACK IN THE GOOD, old Wildwood days of Jimmy Georginis' youth, summers seemed endless, the boardwalk always abuzz with life.
"I've been coming here since I was a child. I believe I was conceived in Wildwood," Georginis, 43, told the Daily News on Tuesday. "The best memories of my life were in Wildwood."
There's a growing group of teenagers from South Philly, North Jersey and suburbs in between, though, who were ready to make their own magical memories in Wildwood, crammed together like summer campers one last time before college and adulthood came calling.
Jimmy Georginis ruined that dream, they say, but authorities put a little damper on his summer, too.
The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office arrested Georginis yesterday afternoon and charged him with theft by deception for leading "a multijurisdictional rental scheme throughout North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest." Georginis allegedly made $75,000 from the rentals, authorities said, and 18-year-old Samantha Bender, who graduated from St. Hubert Catholic High School last night, said her group of college-bound friends lost $21,000 on a summer rental.
"We trusted this guy," she said.
Bender and about a dozen of her friends said they rented a home from Georginis for the whole summer on East Maple Avenue in the heart of Wildwood. But when the girls got there May 23, they claim, the house was "disgusting and frankly unlivable."
Food was in the cabinets, clothes were scattered all over the floor, Bender said, and Georginis' stinky cats had apparently conceived in Wildwood, too.
"There were two little kittens on the floor," Bender said.
Police later posted a violations order on the door, making it official: The house was unlivable. Bender and her friends had to leave and haven't gotten back a dime.
On Tuesday, Georginis said he didn't want to comment directly on the complaints, but suggested it was a matter of "perception."
"I feel bad for the kids," he said.
Georginis owns three homes in the city of Wildwood, according to tax records, and rents others there and in surrounding municipalities, which he then subleases. His customers are mostly teenagers looking for a place to stay after the prom or to celebrate "Senior Week" after graduation. The Prosecutor's Office said one of the homes Georginis was renting was owned by a bank.
A Philadelphia woman sued Georginis for $14,622 on behalf of her daughter after they were bumped out of a summer rental in North Wildwood last year that Georginis didn't own.
"Parents are outraged," said the woman's attorney, Brian McVan.
Another mom, Dina Defino, went down to Wildwood before Memorial Day to check out the home her son and other teens from Ss. Neumann-Goretti and Roman Catholic high schools rented from Georginis. She claims the house was uninhabitable and being double-rented.
"I got in a big fight with him and called him every name in the book," she said. "It's not about the money; it's about our kids trusting him."
Akash Desai, a senior at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, was supposed to be in Wildwood after his prom last month in a house he rented from Georginis with 20 of his friends.
Desai's group found construction being done to their rental when they went to check on it, asked for a refund and have been pounding sand ever since, asking for their money. He went to Six Flags Great Adventure after the prom instead.
"His method of avoiding people is not calling people back and avoiding texts," Desai said.
At Mayor Ernie Troiano's office Tuesday in Wildwood, an assistant was fielding calls from angry parents, the stack of emailed complaints growing to nearly an inch high. Troiano said he revoked Georginis' mercantile license last week, but he also pointed fingers at the hordes of teenage tourists he claims abuse their newfound freedom and the parents who give it to them.
"The parents need to wake up," he said.
Troiano said the culture of "Senior Week," the post-prom rentals and dozens of teens bunking up from Memorial Day to Labor Day in crappy housing is about one thing only.
"If there's a hundred kids, 95 of them are drinking," he said, adding that kids from Catholic high schools are his biggest problem. "It's just gotten out of control."
Georginis said Tuesday that he'd like to make things right with all those disgruntled teens, one client at a time, and one parent from Middlesex County did receive a wire transfer of $1,000. He still owes the woman's daughter and her friends $2,650, but now he's being held in lieu of $70,000 bail.
"I have nothing to hide," he said. "I have a stellar track record."
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