From Bedford-Stuyvesant to Park Slope: Deed theft scheme exposed

August 11, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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A Brooklyn man admitted guilt to a real estate fraud scheme that targeted properties across Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, and Park Slope.

Derrick Johnson, also known as Jay Rendell, has been revealed as the mastermind behind the fraudulent deals that ultimately amounted to a theft of approximately $775,000.

The announcement was made by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who confirmed Johnson’s pleading guilty to grand larceny charges. The scam involved two properties in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, where Johnson utilized shell corporations to craft counterfeit deeds. In a separate incident, he committed mortgage fraud concerning a Park Slope property, all using fabricated documents.

“This defendant filed phony deeds and mortgage documents against multiple properties in a brazen real estate scheme that defrauded homeowners and lenders,” said District Attorney Gonzalez. The stern action sends a clear warning to potential scammers about the consequences they might face.

Johnson, a 60-year-old resident of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, appeared before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Johnson, where he admitted to five counts of second-degree grand larceny. The judge has assured him a prison sentence ranging from three to nine years, with the verdict set for Aug. 30, 2023.

Johnson’s entanglement with the law doesn’t end there. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to charges of attempted possession of a weapon and later failed to appear for his sentencing. Captured in Georgia after a bench warrant was issued, he faced further charges and ultimately pleaded guilty to bail jumping. Sentencing for these offenses, five years for the gun charge and one year for bail jumping, is scheduled concurrently with the real estate fraud verdict.

According to the investigation, Johnson’s fraudulent schemes began in late 2020 when he deceitfully obtained a mortgage for a Park Slope apartment building. Using forged documents, he convinced a lender to release a mortgage of $337,825, which he misappropriated. By mid-2021, Johnson, alongside another accused co-conspirator, deceitfully transferred property titles in Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, procuring mortgages totaling nearly half a million dollars.

The tactics used by Johnson are familiar in the realm of real estate scams. Often, the primary goal is selling the property to an unknowing buyer, requiring intricate closings. Such schemes, sadly, involve both cohorts and unsuspecting real estate professionals. Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s Office has been fervently tackling these wrongdoings, with offenders receiving long prison terms.

Their dedicated approach seems to be bearing fruit. Data from the city’s Department of Finance indicates that Brooklyn witnessed a significant drop in deed fraud complaints — from 318 in 2015 down to only four in the first half of the current year.

District Attorney Gonzalez advised home owners in Brooklyn to register with the NYC Department of Finance’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) to monitor any changes to their property records. He also urged homeowners to remain vigilant, never signing contracts they don’t comprehend, and staying updated about their property notices.

 


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