An 80-year-old Harlem woman was swindled out of a building she owned when a pair of alleged con men convinced her to give up her property and then tried to take out additional loans.
Ina McCarther says she saved her teacher's salary to buy the 37-unit building at 164th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue for $198,000 in 1954. Decades later, she was ready to sell the property for much more.
"I thought I was going to sell it for $4 million," she said. "But it didn't go through."
That's because federal prosecutors said the buyers wrote phony checks and tricked McCarther. Authorities called it a "brazen scheme" and "a web of lies."
Investigators said the main swindler is a Brooklyn lawyer with a home in the wealthy section of Jamaica Estates. He's also a pastor at Deeper Life Bible Church in Jamaica, Queens, they said.
A man who answered the door at the church Wednesday night said the accused pastor, Eric Abakporo, wasn't there.
"I have no idea what you're saying," said the man, who declined to give his name. "That should be a lie -- these lies cannot help you."
McCarther says she started crying when she learned she'd been scammed.
"Water started running, and I said, 'Who could do this to me?'" she said.
McCarther said she wasn't selling the building to get rich. After painful foot surgeries, she wanted a comforting clause in the contract.
"I would live here until I die without paying rent," she said.
McCarther still does live in an apartment in the building she formerly owned. But she hasn't seen the money that was promised in the transaction. She's sure the alleged swindlers didn't think she'd live long enough to follow up.
"They miscalculated," she said.
The accused scammers, Abakporo and Latanya Pierce, could not be reached for comment. They are also charged with defrauding Washington Mutual Bank out more than $1 million. If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison.
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