The Real Deal New York

Three sentenced in Harlem homeowner scheme

Authorities say they impersonated landlords to cash in on buildings they didn’t own

December 15, 2015 01:00PM
By Kathryn Brenzel

79 West 118th Street in Harlem (inset: Cyrus Vance)

79 West 118th Street in Harlem (inset: District Attorney Cyrus Vance)

Three real estate scammers are heading to prison for impersonating property owners in order to cash in on properties that they didn’t own, authorities said.

Christopher Cable, 39, Carrie Stevens, 61, and Kajetan Belza, 38, were sentenced to state prison after pleading guilty to stealing the identity of a property owner in order to sell her Harlem home, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Tuesday. Not only did the group accept a check for the property, but they apparently undersold the home. They received $525,000 for 79 West 118th Street, even though the property is worth roughly $1.2 million.

The three were charged with various counts of grand larceny, theft and identity theft. Cable faces three to nine years in prison, while Belza is set to serve four to 12 years. Stevens was sentenced to one to three years, Vance said.

The scam is one that is playing out across the city. Vance said this type of scheme is reaching “unprecedented levels in New York and across the country.” The New York Department of Finance is currently investigating 120 similar cases, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

The Harlem sale was part of a larger scheme that involved various properties. Cable, Stevens, Belza and four co-conspirators targeted vacant and run-down properties — where owners were often absent — to sell to unsuspecting buyers, Vance said. They allegedly forged real estate documents and personal identification information in order to fool buyers and to retain attorneys for the property closings. The scam only unraveled when the owners returned to the properties, and by that time, the buyers had already made off with the new homeowner’s money.

The alleged ringleader of the scheme, Kanwarjeet Malik, 31, has been indicted in the Harlem sale, as well as two other fraudulent deals. He is accused of posing as a broker and arranging the real estate closings. Three co-conspirators — Ingrid Davis, Calvin Norwood, Edward Franco — have also been charged. They have not yet been sentenced.

Two others, Jagtar Sigh and Ashton Ramlogan, have also been charged in a similar scheme in which they tried to selling a vacant Brooklyn property. Ramlogan also allegedly sold a Long Island City lot on 21st Street for $775,000.