NEW YORK — A phony real estate agent from The Bronx stole about $250,000 in down payments from four potential real estate investors in Harlem as part of an elaborate property scam, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
Dan Stern, 51, opened Harlem Village Realty at 104-106 E. 126th St. between Oct. 1, 2014 and May 30, 2015, where he advertised several properties as being for sale without letting the actual owners know or getting their permission to do so, the DA's office said.
Targeted properties included two churches and several buildings that needed serious repairs or were facing foreclosure, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr's office.
After a buyer expressed interest in one of the properties, Stern would have contracts prepared and take checks as down payment, occasionally posing as a real estate agent or attorney to investors, according to the DA's office.
He then deposited their money in a bank account that was in another person's name, and when his victims called requesting their money back, he simply did not return the calls, Vance's office said.
Stern still has not returned any of the money, which he used to cover personal expenses like membership to a country club and maintenance on luxury cars, according to the Manhattan DA's Office.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant District Attorney Nashonme Johnson, and Vance thanked Detective Peter Sganga of the NYPD's Bronx Grand Larceny Squad for helping with the investigation.
Stern is being charged with four counts of grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud.
"In today’s real estate climate, property owners and potential investors need to be vigilant in protecting their assets," Vance said in a statement. "I urge anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this type of fraud to call my Office’s Financial Frauds Hotline at 212-335-8900."