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"A penny for your thoughts"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Daily News stole Empire State Building in 90 minutes.

Picture-Daily News reporter William Sherman in front of the Empire State Building.
Daily News pulled the biggest heists in American history by stealing the $2 billion Empire State Building to prove a loophole in the system - run by the office of the city register - doesn't require clerks to verify the information. The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property. Less than 90 minutes after the bogus documents were submitted on Monday, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to Nelots Properties LLC. Nelots is "stolen" spelled backward. (The News returned the property Tuesday.)

It shows how easy it is for con artists to swipe more modest buildings right out from under their owners. Armed with a fraudulent deed, they can take out big mortgages and disappear, leaving a mess for property owners, banks and bureaucrats.

Many crooks have done just that:

- Asia Smith stole her 88-year-old grandmother's house in Springfield Gardens, Queens, pocketing $445,000 in mortgages she took out.

"Her grandmother raised her," said Queens Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kane. Smith, 22, was arrested last December and is serving a one-year jail term for fraud.

- A man posing as someone who had been dead for 19 years deeded the dead man's property to himself. He then sold it to the scheme's mastermind, who took out a $533,000 mortgage and vanished with the cash.

- Toma Dushevic managed to steal seven dilapidated city-owned buildings in Brooklyn 10 years ago.

He got renovation permits, fixed up one of the buildings, and rented out apartments. He sold another building for $250,000 and ran his scam for nearly two years until he was caught. Dushevic returned the buildings and did 18 months behind bars.

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