A Manhattan woman has been charged with grand larceny and tax fraud in what appears to be an audacious scheme: Prosecutors say she sold a Harlem brownstone, but when the owner defaulted on the mortgage, she swooped in and started collecting rent from the tenants.
Cheryl Keeling, 65, was indicted yesterday for bilking $194,000 from tenants between August 2011 and December 2014. Manhattan DA Cy Vance says she also didn't report any income tax, instead spending the money on restaurant bills, luxury shopping sprees at Bloomingdale's and Macy’s, and other credit card debt. Here are more details from Vance's press release:
The Post adds,
According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, in 2007, Keeling sold a brownstone building in Harlem to another individual, who encumbered the property with two mortgages—including one with a principal balance of $1.5 million. The buyer quickly thereafter defaulted on the mortgage, and the mortgage remained in default until the buyer passed away unexpectedly in 2011.
Purporting to act as the building’s property manager, Keeling held it out for rent and collected $5,000 each month from the building’s tenants, despite not owning the building or having any authority to rent it out. Under the terms of the mortgage, the rent corresponding to the building belonged to the lender and its successors: Bank of America, N.A., and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC.
"She even moved into the 11-unit building at 138 W. 130th St. and was often seen in the neighborhood zipping around in her Porsche, authorities said."
"New York apartments command high rent, and with it, opportunities for scammers to defraud owners and renters alike," Vance said.
Keeling is also accused of not reporting her income as a high school track and field coach for NYC public schools and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School between 2011 and 2014. A few years ago, she ran for City Council in the Bronx, at which time the Riverdale Press reported, "She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in political science and attained her law degree from Valley University School of Law in California. She worked as a law clerk before going into business on her own. She has worked in real estate for 34 years, investing in and managing properties."
She pleaded not guilty and is being held on $25,000 bail.