Deed fraud is indeed alive and well in the city. Late Friday, the Real Deal reported that a woman posing as the rightful owner of three Upper East Side buildings obtained deeds for them and tried to get tenants to send her their rent checks. And today the Post adds the tabloid detail—she's a "former exotic dancer with a body for sin and maybe a brain for it."
Flora Soto Hernandez, who is being held on $250,000 bail on numerous felony counts, including forgery, grand larceny, and scheme to defraud, had formerly dated Fred Ziess, who owned 24 East 81st Street, 405 East 90th Street and 313 East 61st Street. After his death in 2002, she claimed he left her the buildings but a judge decided against her claim. Ziess's brother Alan Ziess told the Real Deal that Soto Hernandez probably "filed false documents showing her to be the buildings' owner" with the city register, who then reported a deed in her name. Then she slipped bills under tenants' doors to have them send her their checks—and not to the management company. The Post says, "She was able to convince a few tenants... But she only got about $1,000 in rent for all her efforts."
Soto Hernandez also allegedly tried to sell 405 E. 90th Street, but Alan Ziess put a "lis pendens" on the building to prevent the sale. When she tried to file affidavits to lift the lis pendens, a suspicious clerk noticed the signature of one of Ziess's lawyers and called him. The signature had apparently been forged and the Manhattan DA's office was called.
Showing fake documents to claim ownership of a building is more common than you think—last month, a grifter stole a brownstone from a dead woman while the Daily News once "stole" the Empire State Building (but just to teach people a lesson about the dangers how easy it is to get a deed transferred). Alan Ziess's lawyer said, "How do people like her just show up one day at the city register's office and the next day own three buildings? It's mind-boggling to me."