The property was the most famous in the city: the 102-story 5th Avenue landmark. The witness on the property transfer document was named Fay Wray, an actress most famous for her role in the original "King Kong." And the notary--entirely fictional--was William Sutton, named after notorious bank robber Willy Sutton. None of these obvious clues prevented Daily News reporter William Sherman from taking ownership of one of the city's most iconic properties.
The News reports that such scams are laughably easy because the city's Office of the Registrar doesn't require clerks to verify any of the information they process. Sherman assumed ownership over the Empire State Building as Nelots (i.e., Stolen spelled backwards) Properties LLC and returned it to its rightful owners the next day.
The purpose of the high-profile scam was to illustrate gaping loopholes in New York City's property transfer system that allow scammers to perpetrate fraud with full cooperation of the registrar's office. Normally, con-men will fraudulently transfer a property to themselves, mortgage it to the hilt, and then disappear with the cash.