Eleven people and two corporations have been indicted by a grand jury in a fraud scheme that cost several homeowners their property deeds in Queens, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The defendants – nine of whom were in custody of as of Wednesday and two of whom were still being sought – were accused in a scheme where they fraudulently took the deeds away from homeowners, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Half of the victims were elderly, prosecutors said.
The investigation began in 2014, when several Queens homeowners told prosecutors they had received cold calls from people employed by the Kings Development Group in Queens. The callers allegedly said they would assist the homeowners with whatever financial problems they were having with their homes, prosecutors said.
It turned out that the company was not assisting the homeowners, but tricking them into signing over the deeds to their property, prosecutors said.
The deeds were transferred to a corporate entity, but the homeowners were still financially responsible for their mortgages, prosecutors said. Once the new deeds were recorded, the defendants allegedly advised the current tenants that they were the new owners and started collecting monthly rents, evicted the homeowners who were now their tenants, or told the New York City Housing Authority and the Department of Social Services that they were the new homeowners and started collecting subsidies, prosecutors said.