Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the sentencing of EDWARD FRANCO, 61, to 1-to-3 years in state prison and CALVIN NORWOOD, 58, to 2-to-6 years in state prison for engaging in a scheme to fraudulently sell residential homes in New York City, without the knowledge of the legitimate property owners. On March 7, 2017, FRANCO pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree and Identity Theft in the First Degree. On the same date, NORWOOD pleaded guilty to Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
“Deed fraud scams leave both the true owners and new ‘owners’ of a home out in the cold,” said District Attorney Vance. “New York City consistently has one of the most competitive and lucrative residential real-estate markets in the country, and as long as the market continues to boom, scammers will find new ways to illegally benefit from its success. In this particular scheme, defendants stole homes right out from underneath legitimate property owners – who often didn’t discover the theft until new owners had moved in or begun renovations. I urge anyone who believes they have been the victim of this type of real estate scheme to please call my Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau at 212-335-8900.”
According to court documents and the defendants’ guilty pleas, NORWOOD and FRANCO fraudulently sold or attempted to sell properties in New York City, including 57 West 130th Street in Manhattan and 105-22 Merrick Boulevard in Queens. The defendants, along with co-conspirators, engaged in a scheme in which they would target vacant properties, many of which were in a dilapidated condition and which had owners who either were absent or did not use the property as their primary residence. The defendants would then forge personal identification and real estate documents in order to steal the identity of the true property owner, retain an attorney, and attend the closing for the sale of the property to a new, unsuspecting owner. The defendants and their co-conspirators would simultaneously open business bank accounts to retain the proceeds of the fraudulent sale or employ the use of various check-cashing locations.
After the fraudulent sale to the new owner, the original property owner would then return to the home to find the locks changed or preparations for renovations underway. However, the new purchasers and the rightful property owners often did not become aware of the fraudulent scheme until after the closing had occurred and the proceeds had already been paid to the defendants and their co-conspirators.
FRANCO impersonated one of the real property owners of 57 West 130th Street. NORWOOD assisted in the fraudulent sale of 105-22 Merrick Boulevard by opening a bank account in which to retain the illegal proceeds from that fraudulent sale.
Assistant District Attorneys Nashonme Johnson and David Crowley handled the prosecution of these cases, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gloria Garcia, Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; Archana Rao, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; and Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Former Assistant District Attorney Bernadette Lumas Codrington, Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau Detective John Munari, Rackets Bureau Investigator William Burmeister, Deputy Chief Investigator Jonathan Reid, Paralegal Jon Behnken, former Investigative Analyst Anne McGrath and Senior Financial Investigator Wei Man Tan of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigation Unit (“FAFI”), assisted with the investigation, under the supervision of Irene Serrapica, Deputy Chief of FAFI, and Robert Demarest, Chief of FAFI.
District Attorney Vance thanked the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, specifically Detective Investigator Louis Capolupo, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, the Office of the City Registrar, the NYC Department of Finance, and several other agencies throughout the city for their assistance with this investigation.
CALVIN NORWOOD, D.O.B. 11/30/1958
- Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree, a class C felony, one count
- Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, one count
- 2-to-6 years in state prison
EDWARD FRANCO, D.O.B. 8/11/1955
- Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree, a class C felony, one count
- Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, one count
- Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony, one count
- Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, one count
- 1-to-3 years in state prison