WATERSIDE PLAZA — A teenager made counterfeit checks that looked so real he was able to steal nearly $2,000 from the Waterside Plaza Tenants Association before he got caught, police said.
Lionel Burton, 18, created the realistic-looking copies after getting ahold of holiday gratuity checks that the tenants group gave to workers in the complex, said police and Janet Handel, president of the tenants association at Waterside, an apartment complex of about 4,000 residents on the East River waterfront between East 25th and 27th streets.
Burton then worked with a person he met on Instagram — who went by the name "Vanilla Bada$$" — to use a cellphone to deposit two fake checks from the tenants association totaling $1,956.50 into Burton's Bank of America account on Jan. 3, according to police and a criminal complaint from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Once the checks were deposited, Burton withdrew $930 and $505.59 in cash from his account using an ATM card, according to the complaint.
The fake checks had the same appearance, bank code and account number as the checks belonging to the tenants association, Handel said.
The first two checks cleared and were deposited successfully into Burton's account, but when Burton tried to deposit a fake check for $5,000 from the tenants association later in the day on Jan. 3, the bank got suspicious and contacted Handel, she said.
“The bank studied the check carefully and determined it was fraudulent,” Handel said.
Handel immediately reported the fraud to police, who began an investigation.
Burton was arrested at 5:15 p.m. on Feb. 19 and charged with grand larceny, a felony. He was released and is due back in court on May 12, according to the DA's office.
His attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Burton's relationship to Waterside Plaza was not immediately clear.
The Instagram user who helped Burton deposit the checks into his account was still at large as of Wednesday morning, police said.
Despite the fraud, the tenants association will continue giving out gratuity checks to the complex's workers, including doormen, porters and electricians, during the holidays — a tradition that's been around since 1974, Handel said.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but the bank made good on the deposits,” Handel said. “There’s no harm, no foul to us.”
Other notable crimes that occurred in the 13th Precinct include:
► A man threw a glass bottle at another man at the corner of East 14th Street and Fourth Avenue, hitting the victim in the face, police said.
Darryl Davis, 22, was arguing with the 24-year-old victim when the dispute escalated and Davis hurled a glass bottle at him at about 4:20 a.m. on Feb. 20, hitting him in the face and cutting him over his left eye, police said.
The victim was taken to a local hospital for stitches, police said.
The two men did not know each other before the fight. Davis admitted to police that he had thrown the bottle but said he was defending himself, police said.
Davis was charged with assault and possession of a weapon, both felonies, according to the criminal complaint from the Manhattan DA's office.
Davis was released after posting a $5,000 bail, according to online records.
His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.