By Mark Hallum
A Bayside elected official is taking a swing at deed fraud a month after the Queens DA’s office indicted two real estate development companies, one of which headquartered in Bellerose, and 11 individuals for allegedly scamming poor and elderly residents out of their homes.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) introduced a resolution urging the state to pass legislation requiring all deed conveyances to be recorded in the county clerk’s office where the transfer takes place and all the parties notified.
“Deed fraud is a rapidly growing crime that targets our most vulnerable citizens, especially our seniors, whose homes are often their biggest assets. Our current system makes it absurdly easy for someone to fraudulently record a deed,” Vallone said. “What’s worse is that once a fraudulent deed is processed, the only recourse for the rightful owner is to hire a lawyer and undergo an arduous, lengthy and expensive legal process to attempt to reverse it. This legislation would be an important first step in preventing any fraudulent deed transfers and protecting our most important asset, our home.”
According to Vallone, recording deeds would give the city Department of Finance the opportunity to flag any irregularities and contact law enforcement for investigation when necessary. If a deed transfer turns out to be fraudulent, law enforcement could act before any serious damagewas done to the victim.
“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,” Queens DA Richard Brown said in release about the February indictments. “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.”
Kings Development Group, located at 246-15 Jericho Turnpike, was one of the companies that face felony charges and if found guilty could be liable for a fine of about $10,000 or double the amount of illegal gain, the DA said.
A disabled veteran was approached by a Kings representatives at a Veterans Administration hospital in 2013, Brown said. While on medication, the man and his wife signed paperwork that the representative said would help them resolve their financial woes. One of the documents, however, was allegedly a deed transfer which made Kings Development Group the new owner of their home, according to the DA.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall