Attorney General James Announces Charging Long Island Man with Deed Theft and Mortgage Fraud

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Joseph Makhani allegedly stole two Brown Harlem Stones in a complex ploy to
Fraud owners using forged deeds and other forged real estate documents

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the charge and arrest of Joseph Makhani, 58, of Kings Point, Long Island, for stealing two brownstones located in Harlem at 107 West 118e Street and 135 West 131st Street. Makhani targeted the two Harlem brownstones using forged and forged documents, numerous limited liability companies under his control, multiple transfers of ownership, an unethical attorney and abusive legal proceedings. Makhani stole the two Harlem brownstones in 2012 and, according to New York State property tax returns, he claimed to have paid only $ 10 for each. Today, the two brownstones are estimated to be worth $ 2.29 million and $ 1.9 million, respectively. After illegally repossessing both properties, Makhani used forged and forged documents to cover up his fraud and maintain control of the properties from the claims of the real owners. To this day, Makhani still fraudulently owns the West 118e Brownstone Street, but lost possession of West 131st Brownstone off the streets in December 2018 due to unpaid tax liens.

“Homeownership is an essential part of every community, but far too often individuals like Joseph Makhani carry out elaborate ploys designed to rob New Yorkers’ homes,” said Attorney General James. “Document theft remains a crime that permeates our neighborhoods and attacks our most vulnerable, leading to a cycle of displacement and mourning. New Yorkers should never have to worry about their homes being targeted by predators. My office will continue to work with our government and community partners to bring these schemers to justice and protect these homes. “

“The Sheriff’s Office is strongly committed to investigating criminal activity regarding real estate fraud,” said New York Sheriff Joe Fucitto. “These crimes are financially devastating for the victims and their families, many of whom are elderly and have spent their lives working hard and saving to buy a home. The Sheriff’s Office looks forward to working in conjunction with Attorney General Letitia James and her team. “

West 118e Street property

Makhani allegedly used forged deeds and other forged documents to steal the brownstone located on West 118e Street of an elderly disabled owner. In a New York state tax return used to advance his scheme, a company controlled by Makhani claimed to have paid only $ 10 for the brownstone in 2012. Makhani also falsely claimed to have paid $ 975,000 for the brownstone. brownstone when he got a $ 650,000 construction line of credit. on the property. Additionally, Makhani fraudulently received a $ 1.2 million mortgage loan claiming he had legitimate title to the stolen brownstone. The elderly and disabled owner of the brownstone has never received money from Makhani for the brownstone, which is now valued at around $ 2.29 million. In 2016, after renovating the apartments from single occupancy units to full apartments, Makhani rented each unit for between $ 3,000 and $ 3,400 per month, earning her monthly rental income of over $ 12. $ 000.

West 131st Street property

Makhani allegedly illegally transferred the ownership of the West 131st Street property to Harlem using fraudulent acts, front companies and front men, and abusing legal process. Prior to Makhani’s fraudulent takeover, the last deed registered on this property was in the name of an elderly owner who died shortly after the deed was registered in 1975. A beneficiary of the estate is said to have maintained the building until his death in 2010. Shortly after, a tenant in the apartment building was approached by Makhani, who then returned and told the tenant that he had purchased the brownstone. Makhani – under the pretext of offering the tenant a job – fraudulently obtained the tenant’s signature in order to present the tenant as the landlord. The tenant, who had not purchased the property and had never owned the brownstone, later learned that his signature had been forged on a fraudulent deed filed with the municipal registry office, transferring the brownstone to the company of Makhani, One 35 West Corporation. . The real estate transfer report – filed with the fraudulent act created by Makhani – falsely put the brownstone’s selling price at $ 10. When the tenant questioned the validity of the deed in a housing court case, Makhani filed a new counterfeit deed showing that the alleged heirs of the last registered owner from 1975 had transferred the property to One 35 West Corporation of Makhani. In 2013, transfer tax documents filed with this deed contained a fake social security number listed for a man who was one of the alleged heirs and seller of the brownstone in Makhani. This social security number, however, belonged to a woman born in 1902. In 2015, Makhani’s One 35 West Corporation and Makhani were fined over $ 1 million for failing to install a roof, d ” improve the electrical wiring system and implement an extermination plan for rodents and cockroaches in the Harlem Brownstone. In early 2015, Makhani finally gave up the property after the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development issued a million dollar judgment. The property was then transferred to a non-profit organization after a tax foreclosure action. Today, the property is valued at $ 1.9 million.

Makhani was charged yesterday with one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree in relation to the brownstone at 107 West 118th Street; one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree in relation to the brownstone located at 135 West 131st Street; one count of first degree residential mortgage fraud and one count of second degree residential mortgage fraud, both relating to the two residential mortgages he obtained for the West 118th Street brownstone; two counts of falsifying business documents submitted to a New York bank; and one count of first degree fraud scheme between August 7, 2012 and June 28, 2021 for engaging in a scheme constituting systematic and continuous conduct aimed at obtaining property from more than one person under false pretenses or fraudulent.

The charges are only charges and the accused is presumed innocent unless and until his guilt has been proven by a court.

In 1998, Makhani pleaded guilty in federal court for participating in a scheme involving the rigging of bids for foreclosed properties in Queens and for submitting a false tax return, for which he was fined and to two months in prison. In 2008, Queens LLC, HPD LLC and Floor One, LLC – three companies believed to be owned by Joseph Makhani – pleaded guilty to falsifying first-degree business records, a Class “E” felony. The criminal complaint alleged that Makhani, either personally or through one of his companies, forged signatures on deeds filed with the New York City Department of Finance to illegally take control of three properties in the Queens to their legal owners.

The Attorney General’s Office (OAG) would like to thank the Social Security Administration, the Office of the Inspector General and Special Agent Gilberto Camilo for their assistance in this matter.

The OAG also wishes to thank the New York City Sheriff’s Office and the New York City Registry Office for their assistance.

Deed theft has become a common tool for career criminals and unscrupulous real estate developers to illegally obtain real estate so that they can sell it for a huge profit in high demand housing markets. This illegal scheme particularly affects people of color, the elderly and other vulnerable homeowners who are scammed into ceding their homes to crooks. Deed theft typically occurs when crooks forge deeds to make it look like they bought the house, or when owners are tricked into giving their house to a scammer without knowing what they are doing. The crooks then seek to evict the owner and sell the house to a third party for a large profit.

In January 2020, Attorney General James launched the office’s “Protect Our Homes” initiative, a program that uses preventive and enforcement measures to combat document theft in New York City. The OAG also formed an Interagency Document Theft Working Group with members including district attorneys from the five New York boroughs and the New York City Sheriff’s Office. The Anti-Displacement Program builds on these efforts by focusing on neighborhoods most at risk for fee-for-service fraud, inviting community members to talk about the theft with their neighbors, and educating members. guide on how to spot fee-for-service scams.

Those who believe they have experienced an act theft are encouraged to contact the OAG by calling the office helpline at 1-800-771-7755, emailing [email protected], or filling out the online complaint form.

This investigation was conducted by investigator Angel LaPorte, under the supervision of serious affairs unit supervisors Michael Leahy and Mario Rivera and deputy office manager Antoine Karam. The Bureau of Investigations is headed by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes.

The case is being pursued by Deputy Attorney General Nazy Modirim of the Land Enforcement Unit, with additional assistance from Deputy Attorney General Gregory Morril and Legal Support Analyst Grace Koh Рall under the supervision of oversight of the Land Enforcement Unit and Head of the Office of Public Integrity Gerard Murphy. The financial analysis was conducted by Audit Investigator Karishma Tukrel, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro and Chief Auditor Kristen Fabbri of the Forensic Audit Section. The Bureau of Investigations, the Land Enforcement Unit and the Office of Public Integrity are all part of the Criminal Justice Division, which is headed by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jos̩ Maldonado and overseen by Senior Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.


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