A review by The New York Times of several dozen cases, and interviews with lawyers, prosecutors and others knowledgeable about fraudulent deed transfers, suggests they are accelerating even as officials struggle to address them. The city’s Department of Finance said it was investigating 120 cases, many of them hard to crack because of the role played by LLCs, officials said. Underscoring the rising alarm over the problem, the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and the Brooklyn borough president, Eric L. Adams, held a forum last month to warn property owners about it.
Deed thieves often scan legal notices for mortgages in arrears, typically targeting properties like Ms. Campbell’s that are in poor repair or abandoned. Vulnerable homeowners — including older and disabled adults — are sometimes tricked into signing over their properties, while believing they are getting financial relief.
In other cases, signatures are simply forged on deeds. The thieves, meanwhile, hide behind inscrutable mazes of limited liability companies, rented post office boxes and fake addresses.