A woman accused of burglarizing a string of Turtle Bay buildings claimed to be a real estate broker to get in to at least one of them, witnesses say.
Zeyn Soylemez, 37, who was arrested on March 29, faces 16 counts of burglary and possession of stolen property for incidents at five apartments in two buildings, though she appears to have gained access to other addresses, too.
Soylemez does not appear to be a broker; her name does not turn up on the website of the Department of State, which licenses them.
But last year, at 344 East 49th Street, Soylemez and an unidentified man (whom the district attorney’s office is looking for, according to sources) told Mike Perman, the building’s superintendent, that they were brokers and interested in showing a pair of empty second-floor apartments.
At the time, the two units in the 24-unit rental building, which is near First Avenue, were being advertised on Craigslist, the online classifieds site, Perman said, adding that Soylemez and the man were both wearing “badges” — square plastic official-looking tags identifying them as brokers.
In fact, after a tour, he invited them into his apartment for coffee, he said.
The next day, the pair showed up with a renter for the $2,000-a-month apartment, though the renter ended up losing the place because Soylemez had walked away with all her rent money, Perman said.
At some point, Soylemez appears to have scored a key to the front door of the seven-story building, because afterward Perman would regularly spot her in the building, then kick her out.
“She would keep saying, ‘You’re my friend,’ and I would say, ‘You’re not my friend,’” Perman said. ‘You don’t know me.’”
Ultimately, Soylemez stole social security cards, driver’s licenses, passports, watches and computers from a total of three apartments in the building, according to police reports.
Co-ops were also targeted by Soylemez, like 242 East 38th Street, a 40-unit building at Second Avenue, where on March 28 she was found roaming the halls by Roman Gjelaj, the superintendent there.
After escorting her out, Gjelaj discovered a black backpack with silver trim on the roof that was crammed with about 60 keys as well as passports and driver’s licenses, plus files, pliers and screwdrivers, said Gjelaj, who was interviewed by prosecutors this Monday. The DA’s office said the investigation is ongoing.
Also nearby was a dog, a chocolate Lab, which police believe was Soylemez’s; it was later taken away by police officers.
“It looks like she was a professional [thief],” said Gjelaj, in an interview outside his building.
Corporate housing was also a victim, like 224 East 48th Street, called Turtle Bay Suites, a six-story 24-unit building whose “luxury corporate” one-bedrooms start at $2,750 a month, according to its website, though there are typical apartments there, too.
At No. 224, Soylemez allegedly swiped a check that was in an envelope atop the mailboxes, according to police.
Besides the stolen check, the building is mostly immune to a scam like the one Soylemez is accused of running because it has a strict no-sublet policy, said Steven, a spokesperson for landlord 460 Park Associates who would only give his first name. He also said he frequently checks sites like Craigslist to make sure nobody is breaking those rules. “So, we don’t have that worry,” he said.
But others see a system that’s ripe for abuse, said Ramin Shalom, who manages 238 East 50th Street, a six-story rental where police say Soylemez burglarized a top-floor apartment.
If anybody wants to see units there, whether they are a broker or renter, Shalom will hand them keys to both the front door and apartment for a deposit of $25 in cash and a driver’s license, which they can pick up when the keys are returned.
But, nothing’s to stop the borrower of the keys from making copies and “going on their merry way,” admits Shalom of his building, whose apartments are listed on Streeteasy.com.
Soylemez’s lawyer, Japheth Baker, of the Legal Aid Society, did not return a call for comment. Her next court date is set for April 28.