Photo Courtesy of Google
According to DA Brown, the investigation began in 2014 when several borough homeowners informed his office that they had received cold calls from individuals employed at Kings Development Group on Jericho Turnpike in Bellerose.
By Forum Staff
Eleven individuals – including three attorneys – and two real estate corporations have been charged by a Queens grand jury with preying on New York City homeowners in financial distress and defrauding them into signing over their properties.
A joint investigation into Kings Development Group stemming from Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown’s Office of Economic Crimes Bureau and the New York City Sheriff Office’s Deed Fraud Unit has placed nine of the individuals are presently in custody and the remaining two are being sought.
“Instead of tossing the victims a lifeline, half of whom were elderly individuals, the defendants are accused of creating a financial nightmare for the homeowners and placing them in worse financial situations than when first contacted by the defendants. As a result of the alleged fraudulent deed transfer scheme, the homeowners are no longer the titled owners of their own properties and therefore cannot move toward a resolution with their own mortgage companies. In each case, the homeowner must retain a real estate attorney to have the fraudulent deed reversed, resulting in additional financial hardships on them.” The defendants, both those in custody and the remaining being sought are awaiting arraignment on a 55-count indictment in which they are variously charged with the first- and second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first-degree falsifying business records, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, second- and third-degree grand larceny, unlawful eviction, fourth-degree criminal facilitation, fraudulently obtaining a signature and first-degree scheme to defraud. If convicted, the defendants face varying prison sentences, the shortest being up to four years in prison and the longest being up to 25 years in prison.
An investigation began in 2014 when several Queens homeowners reported receiving cold calls from individuals employed at the defendant corporation, Kings Development Group, of Queens. The caller promised to assist homeowners with financial problems with their home instead a fraudulent real estate operation was revealed in which the “purported assistance” was a scheme to get homeowners to unknowingly sign over the deeds to their property.
A review of deeds filed with the City Register, determined the defendants had received deed transfers from the homeowners, which transferred ownership of the properties to a corporate entity. Although the homeowners were no longer the recorded owners of the properties, they were still financially responsible for the mortgages. Once the new deeds were recorded, the defendants allegedly: 1) advised the current tenants of the homes that they were the new owners and began collecting the monthly rents; 2) evicted the current tenants; 3) notified the New York City Housing Authority and/or the Department of Social Services that they were the new owners of the properties and – by providing a copy of the newly recorded deeds – began collecting monthly subsidies for the tenants in the homes; or 4) placed new tenants into the victims’ properties and began collecting monthly rents in excess of $1,000 for each tenant.
Between August 2012 and January 2017 the defendants collected rental income from individuals or from the City’s Housing Authority or Human Resources Administration while the homeowners’ credit continued to be destroyed while their properties underwent the foreclosure process.
In one instance, it is alleged, a United States veteran, while hospitalized for more than a year for illness and ultimately an organ transplant, was visited at the Veterans Administration hospital in October 2013 by representatives from Kings Development Group. While sick and on medication, the veteran and his wife were allegedly directed to sign several different documents that would enable Kings Development Group to help them resolve the financial issues that had arisen with their home during the veteran’s hospitalization. One of the documents to be signed was allegedly a deed transfer, transferring ownership of their property to an unknown corporation associated with Kings Development Group. In a second instance, a single mother with five children was in foreclosure and Kings Development Group employees promised that they could solve her financial problems with her house, restore her credit and assist her in buying a new house once the one in foreclosure was resolved. It is additionally alleged that, as part of Kings Development Group’s assistance, the victim was told that she had to move out of her own house but that Kings Development Group would provide her residency in a different house. But when the mother and her children moved into the home, she learned that Kings Development Group did not own the house in which she was placed but rather was owned by another homeowner whom Kings Development Group was purportedly helping with a short sale. The real owner of the house was forced to evict the single mother and her children, forcing them to live in a shelter for many months.