Five members of a deed theft ring operating in southeast Queens were indicted for allegedly stealing three homes worth more than $1 million in total from elderly and vulnerable homeowners in Jamaica and St. Albans, state Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday, Dec. 9.
Stacie Saunders, 51, Anyekache Hercules, 47, and Jerry Currin, 66, were arraigned Dec. 8 before Queens Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Braun in grand larceny charges and other felonies, including the practice of law by an attorney who had been disbarred, suspended or convicted of a felony.
The three defendants allegedly impersonated the real homeowners of the properties by using forged driver’s licenses and social security cards. They then used that forged information at contract signings and closings in the properties and forged the real owners’ signatures in deeds and real estate contracts, according to the AG’s office.
“No one should face the nightmare of having their home stolen from them without any warning, knowledge or reason,” James said. “Deed theft is a merciless crime that targets seniors, and often people of color, who are asset rich but cash poor, and reliant on their homes as a stabilizing force for their families and loved ones. My office will continue our work to combat deed theft until we can ensure no other New Yorker is forced to endure this heartbreaking, life-altering loss.”
While three members of the deed theft crew were arraigned, Marcus Wilcher, 47, and Dean Lloyd, 61, remain at large, while three others have yet to be identified.
“I thank Attorney General Letitia James as well as our agency and law enforcement partners for their diligent efforts on behalf of New Yorkers,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “Deed fraud is an increasingly pervasive crime that robs homeowners of their single most valuable asset. Though it is a growing challenge throughout Queens County, those who choose to victimize others for their own financial gain will be held to account in this borough.”
Beginning in September 2019, Wilcher located homes in Jamaica and St. Albans, Queens, in poor or run-down condition with absentee owners. Saunders then marketed the homes to investors at prices significantly below market rate for quick sales. After an investor expressed interest in purchasing a home, Wilcher would secure personal information about the real owners, including social security numbers and birth dates, to create falsified driver’s licenses, social security cards and bank cards. Wilcher and Saunders then found people to impersonate the true owners of the properties at contract signings and closings.
According to the indictment, Hercules created certain forged legal documents used to steal the homes. As she was disbarred and could not practice law in New York, Hercules fraudulently used a practicing attorney’s email and name on legal correspondence. Lloyd or one of three other individuals that have yet to be apprehended would appear at the closings with forged deeds and contracts. Currin appeared at the closing of his family home with an individual who pretended to be his sister, the executor of the family estate. This person has not yet been apprehended. Currin also submitted a false affidavit supporting a second estate sale for a different stolen property, written as a longtime family friend.
After the sales were finalized, the defendants opened bank accounts in the names of the homes’ real owners using the impostor sellers’ forged driver’s licenses and social security cards. He and his co-conspirators then used these bank accounts and other entities and LLCs they controlled to funnel more than $1 million in proceeds to themselves.
“Deed fraud continues to be a priority of our office that victimizes the most vulnerable homeowners of New York City,” NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda said. “Perpetrators prey upon the elderly, the financially disadvantaged, and the medically infirmed through deception and a variety of nefarious schemes. The Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation will continue to coordinate our effort to protect homeowners and investigate these horrific thefts along with all of our law enforcement partners in the city.”
The maximum sentence on the top count is 15 years. The AG’s office is currently seeking the public’s help in identifying the remaining members of the deed theft ring who remain at large.