LOWER MANHATTAN — A fake landlord collected more than $194,000 in rent on a Harlem brownstone she didn't own, Manhattan's district attorney said.
Cheryl Keeling, 65, took the money from the tenants at the undisclosed building between August 2011 and December 2014 and failed to declare the income to the IRS, prosecutors said.
Keeling sold the brownstone to an unnamed person in 2007, and that new owner burdened the home with two mortgages — with one having a balance of $1.5 million — then defaulted on payments, officials said.
The mortgage remained in default until the owner died in 2011, officials said.
After the owner's death, Keeling posed as the building’s manager and rented out apartments and collected $5,000 each month from the building’s tenants, despite not owning the building or having any authority to rent it out, officials said.
She used the money to pay for personal expenses, including restaurant bills, “luxury goods purchases” at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and paying off credit card debt, officials said.
The rent, according to officials, was supposed to go the mortgage lender and its successors: Bank of America and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC.
“New York apartments command high rent and, with it, opportunities for scammers to defraud owners and renters alike,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
“[T]he defendant rented out apartments when she had no authority to do so, used the proceeds to pay for a variety of personal expenses and avoided the tax obligations borne by all New Yorkers.”
Keeling also didn’t file income taxes on the pay she received while working as a high school track and field coach for the city Board of Education from 2012 to 2014 and for the Ethical Culture Fieldston School from 2011 to 2014, officials said.
The charges, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, include two counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, three counts of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud, one count of fifth-degree criminal tax fraud and two counts of failing to file income taxes.
A lawyer for Keeling could not be reached for comment.