Crown Heights family that twice defied eviction lays out deed-theft claims

Complaint ties real estate operators to previous accounts of stolen homes

964 Park Place (Google Maps)
964 Park Place (Google Maps)

Things looked bleak in May for a Crown Heights family that reclaimed its home after being evicted in an alleged deed-theft scheme.

The Robinsons were facing ejection for the second time in three months, and their attorney had dropped their deed-theft lawsuit after new evidence suggested the matriarch’s grandson had pocketed money in a deal for the property, 964 Park Place.

Soon after, a housing court judge agreed to hear the new owner’s arguments on whether to reinstate an eviction.

But on the last day of May, the judge put the Robinsons’ case on hold until the state ruled on their application for rent relief, which they filed despite claiming ownership of the stately Brooklyn brownstone.

Now, the family is using that temporary immunity to re-up claims that a ring of real estate operators stole 98-year-old Ida Robinson’s home of 70 years.

Their complaint filed this month offers new details about the allegation Robinson and her offspring have made for months: that the transfer of their house to real estate investors was fraudulent.

Robinson believed she was signing for an $800,000, cash-out refinancing of her home’s $446,000 mortgage that would free up $330,000, according to the suit.

But the suit claims that on June 18, 2015, Hezi Torati and Yariv Katz, who claimed to be the family’s attorney, coerced Robinson into signing “fictitious property transfer documents.”

The suit alleges that no notary witnessed the signing and the deed that transferred ownership to Torati’s 964 Park Place LLC only bears notary Mordche Fuchs’ stamp, not his signature.

The family’s filing makes two significant acknowledgments: that Robinson’s grandson Ali Torain accepted $323,476 from the cash-out refinancing and that $451,700 went to pay off their outstanding mortgage. Those figures match the amounts Torati’s LLC submitted as evidence against Torain.

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The Robinsons’ filing contends that Torati and Katz sent Torain funds to dissuade him from unwinding the deal.

Robinson, under the guardianship of her daughter Helen Robinson, is suing Torati, Katz, Fuchs and the property’s current owner Menachem Gurevitch to void the deed, cancel the subsequent transfers and return ownership to the Robinsons.

This month’s filing is the fifth in a long legal battle between the family and the real estate operators involved in 964 Park Place’s disputed sale.

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After the June 2015 meeting, the complaint states, the Robinsons tried to unwind the deal when the refinancing funds didn’t immediately come through. Soon after, those involved in the transaction connected Torain with attorney Andre Soleil to help cancel the deal.

But the complaint alleges that Soleil instead represented Ida Robinson without her consent in multiple suits brought by Torati’s LLC and the property’s current owner, Gurevitch.

Soleil was later disbarred for deed theft. Other defendants named in the Robinsons’ filing share his connection to property theft schemes.

Katz, for example, was charged in March 2017 with defrauding senior citizens out of their homes. And the Brooklyn district attorney’s office indicted Torati in 2011 for doing business through a “phony financial services company.” The complaint alleges Torati has a record of “engaging in mortgage loan modification and refinancing scams.”

A spokesperson for Torati said, “There are no merits to these allegations and it will be demonstrated once again in court.” The other parties named did not respond to requests for comment.

The debt that led to the saga stemmed from a 7 percent, $455,000 mortgage the elder Robinson got from a subprime lender in January 2007. Robinson and her late husband bought 964 Park Place in 1968 after the family had lived there for 17 years. She paid off their original $17,000 mortgage in 1991.

The Robinsons’ attorney did not return a request for comment. The Crown Heights Tenant Union, which has assisted the family, declined to comment.