Somehow, a parishioner at the Free Mission Action Movement Church in East New York, Brooklyn managed to steal the church and sell it to a developer. How could this happen? Well, the City Register doesn't check deeds for authenticity, enabling many scammers to attempt steal property.
The Daily News reports that the "con-man parishioner" Derrick Jones "easily managed to get the City Register to record forged deeds" for the $1 million church and property. Jones would use notaries public and a title deed company to add some "legitimacy" as well. Bishop Walter Dunlap first found out about the scam in 2004, but managed to convince the multiple-sclerorsis-afflicted Jones to deed the property back.
Remarkably, Jones did it again, drawing up another set of false deeds filed with the City Register and stealing the property a second time, records show.
He then sold the property for $50,000, along with yet another set of forged deeds used to transfer the property to the Vasilios Corp., run by Thankam Vasilakos of Queens, court documents show.
Vasilakos, who intended to develop the property into apartments, is suing the church and the title company, claiming she owns the property.
The case will be heard in Brooklyn Supreme Court. A Brooklyn DA's office prosecutor explained to the News, "All you need is notarized signatures on a deed form. Once that deed is filed, you can obtain a mortgage on the property, you can rent it, you can sell it, whatever. There are hundreds of cases of deed fraud in the city every year." The City Register's office says it is working on preventing fraud.
Jones has also tried to steal a neighbor's house, with the same deed scam, but his deed-filing-fee check bounced. Previously, a man tried to repeatedly steal the Soho Grand Hotel by filing claims of ownership through a company specializing in property deeds.