BROOKLYN, NY – Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with grand larceny and burglary for allegedly filing a fake deed to transfer ownership of his landlord’s $759,000 rental property to a trust in the defendant’s name.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly filed a fake deed in an unlawful attempt to take ownership of his landlord’s property. Title theft is a serious crime that deprives hard-working people of the single most important asset any American can hope to own. As real estate values continue to rise dramatically in Brooklyn, I remain committed to protecting homeowners across the borough from fraudsters who would steal their security and investment in the future.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as James Effiwatt, 64, of Flatlands. The defendant was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with one count of second-degree burglary, one count of second-degree grand larceny and two counts of fourth-degree attempted grand larceny. The defendant was ordered held on bail of $25,000 bond or $10,000 cash and to return to court on February 15, 2022.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on January 15, 2021, Effiwatt allegedly recorded a deed to a three-story house at 36 Hubbard Place in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn that transferred the title of the property from the owner, Hubbard Estates LLC, to an entity called the “Ayonkladd Trust,” of which the defendant was the trustee. The deed was allegedly signed by Effiwatt as a grantor despite the fact that the defendant is not a member or trustee of Hubbard Estates LLC. The building has an assessed value of $759,000. The property has been owned by the legitimate owner, a 49-year-old woman, since 2015.
The District Attorney said that, furthermore, the investigation revealed that Effiwatt is a former tenant of 36 Hubbard Place who lived in the third-floor attic apartment for several years beginning in August 2015. Effiwatt allegedly stopped paying rent in the summer of 2017 and was eventually ordered to vacate the property in October 2019 by city housing officials over housing code violations. However, it is alleged that Effiwatt subsequently moved back into the attic apartment where he has remained since. Additionally, beginning in March 2021, Effiwatt allegedly approached several other tenants of the property and demanded they pay him rent. Effiwatt also allegedly approached a real estate broker and discussed selling the property for six or seven hundred thousand dollars.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Francis Longobardi, Special Counsel to the District Attorney’s Real Estate Frauds Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Unit Chief, Assistant District Attorney Gregory Pavlides, Chief of the Frauds Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.