MANHATTAN — Two people have been charged with orchestrating a complex scam to swindle an elderly woman, convincing her to hand over her multimillion-dollar Washington Heights property in exchange for fake checks, officials said Wednesday.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that Ifeanyichukwu Eric Abakporo, 52, a lawyer from Queens, and his employee Latanya Pierce, 43, of Brooklyn, also deceived a bank into giving them a $1.8 million mortgage loan secured by the property.
Both face multiple counts of fraud and could face more than 30 years in prison.
"Sadly, this type of mortgage fraud scheme and exploitation of vulnerable victims have become all too familiar," Bharara said in a statement. "But as these charges make clear, we are committed to bringing those who perpetrate these types of harmful schemes to justice."
The case dates to 2006, when Abakporo and Pierce formed a relationship with the victim.
Over time, they allegedly convinced her to sell them the apartment building she owned at 1070 St. Nicholas Ave., near West 163rd Street, for more than 40 years, promising to pay her $3.1 million.
But the duo instead gave her fake checks during the sale process, prosecutors said. They also are suspected of submitting a fraudulent application to Washington Mutual Bank seeking a $1.8 mortgage loan secured by the property.
The investigation into the scheme was carried out by the state attorney general’s investigative staff, as well as the FBI.
"Through lies and deception, these individuals abused the trust of an elderly woman in order to perpetrate a multi-million-dollar fraud," state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "Now that their despicable scheme has been exposed, they will face justice."