A long Island man will spend time behind bars after swindling an elderly man out of his Brooklyn brownstone. Photo Credit: Google Maps
A Long Island man is heading to prison after stealing a vacant
brownstone worth more than a million dollars from an elderly former
school teacher, authorities announced.
Mount Sinai resident Craig Hecht, 52, was sentenced this week to a term
of one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison for a deed fraud
scheme targeting an 80-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant homeowner.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said that Hecht, 52, and a
cohort who remains on the loose, stole the deed to 260 Clifton Place, a
two-story Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone owned by an 80-year-old retired
The victim and her family lived in the brownstone for more than three
decades, Gonzalez noted. In 2010, the family vacated the property after a
fire made the building uninhabitable.
Gonzalez said Hecht formed an entity called Ernestina Thomas LLC that
he filed with the New York State Department of State on April 20, 2015.
Ten days later, his co-conspirator opened a bank account called
Ernestina Thomas LLC (ET).
The victim did not know about or consent to any of this, Gonzalez noted.
On Sept. 18, 2015, Hecht set up a closing where the Clifton Place
residence was transferred to an entity called TDA Development.
A deed with the victim’s forged signature, which transferred the
property from her to TDA, was filed and recorded with the City Register.
The bulk of the proceeds of the sale went into an ET account which the co-conspirator controlled.
According to Gonzalez, shortly thereafter, Hecht offered the Clifton Place home to a prospective buyer.
On Nov. 5, 2015, the co-conspirator opened a bank account for TDA and
the following day the property was transferred from TDA to the buyer at
closing for $850,000, with most of the proceeds of that sale going into
the co-conspirator's account.
From the funds stolen out of the two closings, Hecht’s cohort wired
$190,000 to an account he had in Athens, Greece withdrew another
$120,000 in a series of cash withdrawals and transferred over $250,000
to an account held by Hecht’s wife.
The victim was notified of the theft when a neighbor called to tell her
that someone was working on the house and introduced himself as the new
property owner. She then notified the District Attorney’s Office.
Hecht pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering in December last year.
The forged deed was also nullified and Hecht was ordered to pay
$850,000 in restitution to the title insurance company for losses
incurred by reimbursing the home buyer.
“This defendant targeted an elderly homeowner, forging her signature
and capitalizing on her absence in an underhanded effort to steal her
home,” Gonzalez said. “I remain committed to protecting Brooklyn
homeowners and I hope today’s sentence sends a clear message to those
trying to take advantage of seniors or those considering selling their
homes — you will be prosecuted and held fully accountable for your
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