The New York Daily News by William Sherman - February 4, 2010
Smith for NewsKings County District Attorney Charles Hynes (l.) announce charges against 12 people for real estate and mortgage fraud in a press conference at the office of the Kings County District Attorney. A man who collected $16,250 in rent for an apartment he didn't own was among a dozen people charged Thursday with real-estate fraud in Brooklyn. Three lawyers and a city correction officer were also named in the indictments announced by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. "There is an epidemic," Hynes said, adding the dirty dozen reaped more than $2.6 million in profits through the schemes.
The indictments charge that:
- Earl Davis placed an ad on Craigslist and collected a full year's rent in advance after giving the victim a forged lease.
- Correction Officer Margareth Blanc collected more than $30,000 in federal rent subsidies with forged applications while living in her sister's apartment.
- Deric Nelson worked a phony deed scam, making it look like he owned a building he'd already sold - then rending vacant apartments.
- Attorney Alexander Landy bought a home, took out a $500,000 mortgage, never registered the deed or the loan, and then sold the home without paying a nickel to the lender. He was able to fool the buyer's title company because there was no public record of the mortgage.
- Another lawyer, Alan Rocoff, a court-appointed referee in the sale of a church, deposited $200,000 into his own account instead of turning the money over to the court. Both Landy and Rocoff have resigned from the bar. "Ordinarily, in real estate deals, you would say, 'Get a lawyer,'" said Hynes. "Now you say, 'Get an honest lawyer.' You have to pay attention to the lawyers you hire, you have to get referrals." Jean Kemp, a victim of one scam, described how shocked she was to get a call demanding payment for a mortgage on her home - since she'd paid off the mortgage 23 years ago. "It was so scary. I was just furious," she said. It turned out that a lawyer, Jarrett Haber, and his associate, took out a $225,000 mortgage on her home without her knowledge and used that money to pay a debt in another real estate scam, the indictment said.