Deed Theft Threatens Brooklyn Homeowners, Politicians Say

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By Kathleen Culliton, Patch Staff  -- BROOKLYN, NEW YORK -- Hundreds of Brooklynites have been the victims of deed theft and potentially illegal evictions that rob them of their homes, according to local politicians who are demanding a federal investigation.

Bed-Stuy city councilman Robert Cornegy and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called on New York federal prosecutors Tuesday to investigate deed fraud and a Department of Housing Preservation and Development program they believe is unintentionally defrauding homeowners.

'Deed fraud and mortgage foreclosures have reached a crisis moment in Brooklyn,' wrote Borough President Adams and Council Member Cornegy. 'We must do more to ensure that bad actors and government programs are not forcing seniors and low-income residents out of their homes.'

"Especially," the pair added, "since it was these same families who made Brooklyn such an attractive place to raise healthy children and families."

The Brooklyn politicians sent this request — which calls for a full-scale investigation of deed fraud, forced disclosures and HPD's Third Party Transfer, a program that transfers ownership to a nonprofit while the city forecloses on homes with unpaid real estate taxes — to acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood and soon-to-be A.G. Letitia James, U.S. attorneys Richard Donoghue, Geoffrey Berman and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Adams, they said.

Adams and Cornegy also intend to ask City Council will enact a temporary moratorium on Third Party Transfer seizures and other foreclosures until the investigation takes place.

The elected officials announced their joint action at a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall where several locals shared stories of threatened homes.

"My house was not only taken from me, but I'm also about to be taken into custody by the New York City Sheriff's Office," said Van Walker, who was forced out of his Bed-Stuy house on Aug. 2.

"[They] threw me out — as well as my five-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son — and told us to pack up and leave the house under the threat they would incarcerate me."

Homeowner Marlene Saunders said she discovered she might lose her house when she received a message from a complete stranger.

I was sitting in the kitchen and someone left a note on the door saying our home was being taken away. We did not have any debts nor owe anything with our records being totally clean.

Brooklynite Ralph Parker said he was harassed by "fraudsters" who repeatedly telephoned and badgered him with requests to buy his home.

"People know the system and create fictitious names," Parker said. "It is not fair that criminals can do this, and we the victims must pay thousands of dollars to rectify it with nobody being punished."

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