Feds: Fraudsters Claimed To Own $17M Worth Of Property, Preyed On Tenants

Image courtesy of zeorb

There’s a lot of work that goes in to owning a property and renting it out to tenants, but in return, landlords can charge deposits and collect rent. Two Florida residents took the “work” part out of the equation, federal prosecutors claim, and instead just pretended they owned $17 million worth of property so they could demand money from tenants.

The Justice Department, along the Inspector General for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a man and a woman from Florida with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to the FDIC.

According to authorities the twosome conducted a wide-ranging scheme where they faked ownership documents for more than $17 million worth of real estate in New York and Florida. They allegedly used those same forged documents to victimize individuals and tenants living in those properties.

The pair would allegedly choose properties in foreclosure that were owned by banks insured by the FDIC and then file fraudulent and forged warranty deeds indicating that the properties had been turned over to corporations they controlled: New York Sport Foundation, New York Mortgage Corp., and Women in International Relations.

The man was a notary public, and would notarize the documents as signed by the banks and financial institutions, authorities allege, while the woman would sign the documents on behalf of their companies.

According to officials, at least one victim was wrongfully evicted — with the help of the police, no less — and only allowed to remain after an emergency court hearing.

In another case, the couple allegedly used the forged papers to claim a property in Hallandale Beach, FL, and demanded that two people sign lease agreements and hand over cash deposits, prosecutors say. But a few days later, the suspects changed the locks and the tenants were informed by the bank that the lease agreements they’d signed meant nothing, and they would have to move out.

Prosecutors are urging anyone else who may have been a victim to contact the Victim/Witness Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.