MANHATTAN (CN) – A Brooklyn attorney and his employee swindled an elderly woman out of a multimillion-dollar property in Harlem that she had owned for 40 years, then tricked a bank into giving them a $1.8 million loan secured by the property, federal prosecutors said.
The attorney, Ifeanyichuku Eric Abakporo, was arrested in Queens, and his employee, Latanya Pierce, surrendered to the FBI the next day, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement announcing the indictment.
Pierce “controlled an entity called Creekhill Realty, LLC,” according to the four-count indictment. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and bank fraud.
“These two defendants preyed on an elderly woman, using false documents and fraudulent representations to essentially steal her property out from under her,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in the statement. “They then allegedly took their brazen scheme one step further, using the property to deceive a bank into lending them more than a million dollars. Sadly, this type of mortgage fraud scheme and exploitation of vulnerable victims have become all too familiar.”
It’s even worse than it appears, prosecutors said in the statement. After befriending the woman in 2006, “Abakporo and Pierce earned the victim’s trust by, among other things, offering to help her manage the property. This included collecting rent from its tenants on her behalf. However, instead of providing the victim with the renters’ money, Abakporo and Pierce pocketed it.
“Abakporo and Pierce then convinced the victim to sell her property to them for $3.1 million. While they contracted to buy the property for that amount, at the closing, they presented the victim with multiple fake and fraudulent checks to make it appear as if they had paid the contracted sale amount, when in fact they had not. Moreover, after the victim’s attorney had left the closing, Abakporo and Pierce fraudulently induced her to return all of the checks to them by representing that they would safeguard her money and give her a ‘private mortgage’ in the property, which they explained would include monthly payments made to her based on the money she had effectively loaned them. As part of the scheme, Abakporo and Pierce signed and provided the victim with a written agreement representing that she had
loaned them approximately $1.9 million and in return held a ‘private mortgage’ in the Property.
Unbeknownst to the victim, Abakporo and Pierce never recorded the private mortgage and subsequently submitted a fraudulent application to Washington Mutual Bank seeking a $1.8 mortgage loan secured by the property. Abakporo and Pierce never disclosed to the bank that the victim already held a private mortgage on the Property. Instead, Abakporo and Pierce falsely represented to the bank that they had purchased the property for $3.1 million and owned it ‘free and clear.’ Based on those, and other, fraudulent representations, Abakporo and Pierce obtained a $1.8 million mortgage loan from the bank, which they failed to repay.
“As a result of the alleged fraud, the defendants obtained substantially all of the victim’s assets, and $1.8 million in fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds. The property went into default.”
If convicted, Abakporo, 52, of Nigeria and Queens, and Pierce, 43, of Brooklyn, face up to 20 years in prison for each conspiracy charge and 30 years for each substantive charge.
Abakporo is in jail until he pays a $1 million bond secured by property and co-signed by three people. Pierce was released on $500,000 secured by property and co-signed by two people.