NEW YORK — In another example of how easy it is for criminals to steal real estate, a Brooklyn man is facing trial for using forged documents to illegally take ownership of a brownstone in Harlem.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office claims that Enrique Castillo filed fake documents with the City Register to carry out the scheme. Castillo is accused of initially filing a bogus deed in 2007 stating that the building had been conveyed to him by owner Carolyn Todd in 2004 for no cost. The deed included the counterfeit signature of Todd and the forged signature and seal of a Notary. The following year, Castillo filed a false mortgage and a revocation of a power of attorney, again using faked signatures and a Notary stamp.
In fact, Todd had died in Ohio in March 2005 under the care of her cousin, James Bryant, and his wife. Todd signed the power of attorney in January 2005, which granted the Ohio couple the right of survivorship to her brownstone.
The scheme came to light when Bryant tried to file a deed of conveyance with the City Registrar’s office. Bryant contacted the District Attorney’s office once he learned of the false documents. Castillo has been charged with attempted grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing and criminal possession of a false instrument.
While real estate belonging to the elderly, absentee owners or the estates of recently deceased have proved to be easy pickings for thieves across the country, just about any property owner can be victimized. This was driven home in spectacular fashion late last year when a New York reporter used fake documents to “steal” the Empire State Building.