Just Because Someone Tries To Sell You A Building Doesn't Mean They Own It

Meet Mr. Vargas. He would like to sell you his stake in some commercial property, a triangular lot just north of Central Park, at Lenox and St. Nicholas Avenues, in NYC. You would like to buy this property, because it’s apparently awesome. Unfortunately, after you give Mr. Vargas the money — you find out that the property is owned by an entirely different person.

The NYT says:

Mr. Vargas, 35, even posed in front of the property for a photograph that appeared in a real estate journal.

By May 2008, an independent developer agreed to buy Mr. Vargas’s share for $4.8 million, giving him a $1 million down payment.

Five months later, New York Road Runners, the nonprofit organizer of the New York City Marathon, signed a contract to buy the same 60 percent share for $8.5 million.

The property, it turned out, was not Mr. Vargas’s to sell, prosecutors said on Wednesday. In fact, he owned no part of it, and Mr. Duran was the sole owner, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said at a news conference in his office.

Mr. Vargas apparently forged paperwork to make it look like he owned a stake in the building — using information he obtained while posing as a potential buyer.

The Road Runners never paid Mr. Vargas any money, says the NYT, but prosecutors says that they wasted $300,000 in attorney and consultant fees. The guy who gave him a million bucks… well: Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Man Charged in Scheme to Sell Harlem Property [NYT]
Landlord’s Son Busted for Trying to Sell Building He Didn’t Own [Gothamist]
(Photo:DCvision2006)