Few things are more cutthroat and surreal than the world of New York City real estate. In a city that’s home to some of the world’s most outrageously expensive property, people will do just about anything, even in a place as far-out as Canarsie. Yesterday, Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man for stealing a woman’s house with fraudulent paperwork and then flipping it to unsuspecting investors.
This story begins when former Board of Education administrator Hillary Kerman went where many people go after retirement: Florida. Kerman used to live in the two-family house before a fire in the early 2000s, and has since left the house vacant, waiting for the right time to sell. She spends her summers elsewhere in Brooklyn, and her winters and springs in Florida. While she was in Florida, Kenneth Pearson came up with a plan: steal the house with fraudulent papers and then flip it with the help of investors. Last spring, Kerman noticed that something was amiss that May when she didn’t get her annual tax bill for the house. When she dug further, she found out that somebody had filed fraudulent paperwork to steal her house, and then went to the house and found that it had been completely gutted.
Although Kerman had left the house vacant for some years, the damage from the fire was minimal, and many things were still left in the house, including vital documents and various personal effects: her and her grandparents’ wedding albums and all of her parents’ possessions, and somebody had even torn out the trees and rosebushes in the house. Prosecutors were surprised to see how quickly the thief had moved. Pearson sold the house to flippers in just two months for $265,000 (these are Canarsie prices, not Manhattan prices), who never bothered to look inside. It had been cleaned out, and so they knocked down all the walls to make an open floor plan.
Since this happened, Kerman needs to sort out various details, such as how to start getting her mail again. The investors are also having a hard time getting money from their title insurance company. After a month-long grand jury, the police finally found Pearson, who now faces four felony counts. The most serious charge, filing a false instrument, carries 7 ½ to 15 years in prison.
If you’d like to learn more about this bizarre story, you can click here!