A Brooklyn man was sentenced to prison Tuesday in Queens Supreme Court for stealing the Jamaica home of an elderly widow by posing as her son, then selling the property for a $200,000 profit. The stolen deed was returned to its rightful owner under a “pioneering use” of a state statute, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
Christopher Williams, 43, of Morgan Avenue in Williamsburg, pleaded guilty in August to identity theft in the first degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree.
According to the charges, in August 2021, Barbara Matthews received a notification that a new deed, mortgage and other documents had been filed without her knowledge with the New York City Department of Finance for a property she inherited after her father’s death in 2011. The Dunlop Avenue home had been empty for several years as Matthews planned to renovate it.
An investigation was opened and revealed that Williams had submitted several documents to falsely represent himself as the sole owner of the property. The documents included phony birth certificates and death certificates identifying Matthews as her mother.
After claiming ownership of the property, Williams sold it for $270,000. Following the closing, Williams received a sale proceeds check for $214,535.64. Williams took the check to a Bronx check cashing establishment and received $209,665.69 in cash.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Leigh Cheng sentenced Williams to a term of two to four years in prison. Justice Cheng also granted a motion filed by the Queens DA’s office, which applied a state statute to argue for immediately restoring the stolen property’s deed to its rightful owner, sparing the victim the time and expense of additional legal proceedings in civil court.
“We will not allow criminals to scheme and scam their way into other people’s properties and we will use every tool available to ensure that victims are made whole,” Katz said. “In communities targeted by deed fraudsters, many people do not have the means to hire an attorney to file a civil suit and litigate against deep-pocketed mortgage companies, banks and title insurers. Our use of this new tactic allows us to provide victims with one-stop justice.”