FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty in Connection with Real Estate Fraud Involving Properties in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Park Slope
Defendant Stole Approximately $775,000 Using Fake
Documents and Shell Corporations
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has pleaded guilty to grand larceny for a deed fraud scheme in connection with two properties, one in Bedford-Stuyvesant and the other in Bushwick. Additionally, the defendant committed mortgage fraud related to a third property in Park Slope. In total, the defendant stole approximately $775,000 using shell corporations to file fraudulent deeds and mortgage documents.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant filed phony deeds and mortgage documents against multiple properties in a brazen real estate scheme that defrauded homeowners and lenders. Today’s plea sends a strong message to any would-be fraudsters that we will vigorously pursue justice on behalf of fraud victims and seek serious penalties for offenders.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Derrick Johnson, a.k.a. Jay Rendell, 60, of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. He was pleaded guilty today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Johnson to an indictment in which he is charged with five counts of second-degree grand larceny. The judge promised the defendant an indeterminate term of three to nine years in prison when he is sentenced on August 30, 2023.
Additionally, the defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon on January 6, 2023, and was supposed to be sentenced on May 8, 2023, but failed to appear and a bench warrant was issued. He was subsequently arrested in Georgia and returned to New York, where he was indicted for and pleaded guilty to bail jumping. He will be sentenced to five years in prison on the gun case and one year on the bail jumping case.
He will be sentenced on all three cases on August 30, 2023. All three sentences will run concurrently.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on November 25, 2020, the defendant fraudulently obtained a mortgage on an apartment building at 349 17th Street in Park Slope by using fake documents to induce a commercial lender to issue him a mortgage of $337,825, which he stole.
Furthermore, according to the investigation, from June 10, 2021, through June 24, 2021, the defendant, acting with an indicted alleged accomplice, fraudulently transferred title to 1517 Broadway in Bushwick to a shell corporation and induced a different commercial lender to issue them a mortgage of $107,607. They allegedly divided the proceeds with Johnson stealing $50,000 and the remainder allegedly going to his co-defendant.
The following month, from July 1, 2021, through July 29, 2021, Johnson fraudulently transferred title to an apartment building at 323 Malcom X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant to a shell corporation that he controlled and induced a third commercial lender to issue his corporation a mortgage of $329,332, which Johnson also stole.
Deed fraud complaints are down citywide, particularly in Brooklyn. One of the objectives of the fraud is to sell the property to an unwitting buyer, which often requires a closing. Many such closings are orchestrated by skilled operators, who involve both accomplices and, by necessity, unsuspecting real estate professionals, and use the same methods to steal one property after another. For the last eight years, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has focused on identifying and investigating these operators, indicting them and their accomplices and successfully obtaining sentences of years in prison for the persons that drive these ongoing schemes.
Although there are various factors that may affect the number of complaints, these targeted prosecutions and sentences have a meaningful impact. According to the city’s Department of Finance, deed fraud complaints in Brooklyn declined from 318 in 2015 to 72 in 2021. They fell to 31 the following year with only four in the first half of this year.
The District Attorney offered the following tips to homeowners to protect themselves.
- Register with the NYC Department of Finance’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) Recorded Document Notification Program to receive automatic notifications regarding any changes to your deed or property records and make sure they have the correct address to receive property notices.
- Designate a trusted family member or friend to receive notices if you are unable.
- Never sign any contract you do not understand.
- For more information, click here.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Frank Ungerer of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gregory Pavlides, Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and Patricia McNeill, Chief of Investigations.