NYPD Officer Blanche O'Neal was arraigned today on charges that she stole a townhouse down the street from her apartment by filing fake sale papers back in 2012. O'Neal "bought" the blighted house at 23A Vernon Avenue for $10,000 in July of that year, according to transfer documents still on file with the city's Department of Finance. But prosecutors say the building between Nostrand and Marcy avenues was the rightful property of four family members of a woman who died back in 1993. One of the heirs, described in the deed transfer as the "sole heir," was listed as the one signing the property over to O'Neal.
"This defendant allegedly stole a house from its rightful owner with the stroke of a pen, apparently hoping no one would notice," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement. "But her brazen actions have unraveled and she will now be held accountable. That she is a veteran NYPD officer makes this alleged crime all the more disturbing."
The heirs had not done much with the property in the last two decades, prosecutors said, but they discovered the alleged theft in 2014, when they tried to sell the building and learned O'Neal was listed as the new owner. O'Neal pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny, filing a false instrument, and perjury, for the time prosecutors say she testified to her ownership before a grand jury in September 2014 after a burglary at the building. All the charges are felonies.
O'Neal was released without bail today.
"She's pleading not guilty, because she's not guilty," said her attorney, Edward Harold King. "And she's going to vigorously defend the case."
King declined to discuss the specifics of how O'Neal came to possess the house.
O'Neal has been a cop for 12 years and was most recently stationed out of Bushwick's 83rd Precinct. A Police Department rep said she has been suspended without pay. King said O'Neal is not worried about her arrest affecting cases she has worked on.
This summer, records show, the heirs of the building's former owners successfully sold it for $40,000 to an LLC with a Suffolk County mailing address.
A spokesman for the Brooklyn DA's Office said the two-year statute of limitations has passed for crimes that may have been committed by the notary who signed off on the deed transfer, realtor Milton L. Turner. Turner did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the New York Department of State's Division of Licensing Services, which licenses notaries and real estate agents.
O'Neal faces as many as 33 years in prison if convicted.