Phony Harlem Landowners Sentenced For Deed Fraud

Two men are facing several years in jail for posing as landlords to fraudulently sell buildings — including a Harlem brownstone — that they never even owned, prosecutors announced.

Edward Franco, 61, and Calvin Norwood, 58, pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted grand larceny and identity theft in March. On Monday, Franco was sentenced to 1-3 years in state prison and Noorwood was sentenced to 2-6 years. Norwood got more jail time due to additional charges of criminal possession of stolen property and scheming to defraud, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

The two convicted schemers attempted to sell a dilapidated Harlem brownstone, located on West 130th Street between Fifth Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, without the actual building’s owner knowing, according to the DA’s office.

Here’s how the scheme worked. The men would target properties in disrepair with owners who were either absent or did not live in the building, then the men would forge documents to steal the owner’s identity and set up meetings with prospective buyers. Once a deal went through Franco and Norwood would store the money in a business bank account or cash out and check cashing businesses, according to the DA’s office.

“Deed fraud scams leave both the true owners and new ‘owners’ of a home out in the cold,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. “New York City consistently has one of the most competitive and lucrative residential real-estate markets in the country, and as long as the market continues to boom, scammers will find new ways to illegally benefit from its success. In this particular scheme, defendants stole homes right out from underneath legitimate property owners – who often didn’t discover the theft until new owners had moved in or begun renovations.”

Franco and Norwood also pulled the same scheme for a property located at 105-22 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens.

Photo by Google Maps street view. Via source

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