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Brooklyn real estate broker charged with rental apartment, PPE frauds

March 29, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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A Brooklyn real estate broker has been indicted for stealing a total of $103,021 in a succession of schemes, first involving persons looking to rent apartments and then by defrauding medical distribution companies by falsely offering to supply them with personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

District Attorney Eric Gonzalez identified the defendant as Michael Kapelow, 33, of Manhattan Beach. He was arraigned Tuesday before Brooklyn State Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny, six counts of third-degree grand larceny, two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud and four counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument. 

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

Kapelow was released without bail and ordered to return to court on May 31, 2022.

According to the investigation, from December 2019 to February 2020, Kapelow, a licensed real estate salesperson who listed properties in Brighton Beach, stole $21,225 in security deposits and advance rental payments from two couples who were trying to rent an apartment at 380 Neptune Ave. as well as $5,990 from another person seeking to rent an apartment at 40 Shore Blvd. 

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In each case, the defendant allegedly told the victims he would forward the funds to the building’s landlord or management company, only to deposit the money in his own bank account.

Then, from June through December of 2020, Kapelow allegedly stole a total of $69,556 from three medical distribution companies that he had promised to supply with PPE. In each case, the defendant allegedly lied and claimed to own — or have access to — hundreds of boxes of medical gloves. 

However, according to the investigation, the gloves were non-existent and the defendant allegedly had no intention of providing the critical commodity. 

In one case, according to the investigation, the owner of one of the companies became suspicious of Kapelow’s repeated delays in providing the PPE and went to the location where he told her that his warehouse was located. Upon arriving at the address, the owner found only an abandoned dance studio. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

The defendant is also alleged, during this period, to have scammed an investor out of $6,250 after promising to partner on a PPE sale and split the profits.

The indictment charges that none of the victims in either the rental apartment or PPE frauds ever received their money back despite repeated and urgent requests. The defendant was allegedly able to string along the victims through various excuses and evasions, including by claiming he had suffered a family or medical emergency. 

In reality, according to the investigation, the defendant withdrew most of the money in cash or spent it at various casinos in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly stole more than one hundred thousand dollars, taking advantage of people seeking housing in Brooklyn and then, after the onset of the pandemic, exploiting shortages of essential personal protective equipment by falsely soliciting and offering supplies to medical distribution companies. He allegedly stole not only money, but wasted valuable time and resources needed to protect essential workers in a time of unprecedented crisis.”

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Brian Connor of the District Attorney’s Fraud Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gregory Pavlides, Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

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