Today's New York Law Journal reports that one Carl Smith of Brooklyn has just been sentenced to prison time for stealing multiple properties. Let's look at what he did, and how you can protect yourself from scams like this.
According to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, “This defendant shamefully stole houses and other property from their rightful owners by using forged documents, engaging in deceit and committing outright fraud. He did so solely to exploit the lucrative real estate market in Brooklyn,”
Smith, 50 years old, stole a Fort Greene Brownstone at 139 Vanderbilt Avenue, between Myrtle and Park Avenues by forging, back-dating and filing a fraudulent deed. He looked up the prior owner and found her death record. All of that is public information. Smith did the same thing with two Bedford-Stuyvesant properties at 45 Lewis Avenue and 64 Hart Street. He actually sold one of the properties twice, to two different buyers.
All this happened in 2011 and 2013, but Smith had done this before. In 2003 he used the same techniques to steal another Bed-Stuy property at 543 Lexington Avenue. He couldn't evict the tenants, though, and he was never prosecuted.
Smith finally got caught because he couldn't produce clear title histories when he attempted to close on the fraudulent sales. To make matters worse, he pretended to be an attorney for the owners.
Smith was convicted of grand larceny, criminal possession of forged instruments and unlawful practice of law. The judge sentenced him nine to eighteen years in prison.
So how can you protect yourself from scams like this? Sign up for New York City's free Recorded Document Notification Program. Once you sign up, you will get an email any time someone files a deed or other document against your property. If the filing is genuine, you don't have to do anything more. But if the filing is fraudulent, you can take action before any damage is done.
You can access the Document Notification Program on our firm's website, www.LevyNau.com. Click on the Links tab and scroll down to the Safeguard Your Property Title button.
As always, come in, call of click for help or more information. We’re here for you.