What to Know
- Hyacinth and Herbert Minott bought a two-family house in Brooklyn for $145K as a rental investment; it was vacant for years
- In 2013, the couple's kids found the deed had been transferred to an alleged stranger for $10K; three years later, it was transferred again
- Law enforcement sources tell the I-Team a criminal investigation has been launched to look into how the deeds were transferred
An undercover investigation by the I-Team has raised questions about a case of alleged deed fraud in Brooklyn.
Hyacinth and Herbert Minott bought the two-family house on Bedford-Stuyvesant's Hancock Street in 1989 for $145,000 as a rental investment property for their retirement. It was vacant for years. In 2013, the couple’s children discovered the home had been transferred to someone they say was a stranger for $10,000. It was assessed that year at nearly half a million dollars.
“When I checked, the signatures were completely fraudulent,” Karen Minott said. The family complained to law enforcement authorities and hired a civil attorney, Rita Dave, who placed a "legal hold" on the property.
Inexplicably, the property was transferred a second time, in August of 2016, to an ERK Holding, which has a listed address in Flushing, Queens. The family said it was unable to contact anyone from ERK, but that recently, a representative called and asked for a face-to-face meeting to discuss “the deed issue.”
The family enlisted the I-Team to set up hidden cameras throughout their house. There were three meetings on different days.
The representative for ERK, who identified himself as Roi Yosef, said he bought the deed through a broker for $75,000 and didn’t realize there was an issue with the title until after he purchased it.
In one exchange, he offered the family $500,000 cash if they would give up their legal claim to the property. The family refused, saying they wanted the deed back in the family’s name.
Yosef told them he was a victim, too, and asked to be reimbursed for the $75,000 he said he lost in the deal. He also admitted on camera that he recorded the deed for $10,000 to "avoid paying taxes."
When asked questions by the I-Team on camera, he denied all of the statements he had made on undercover video.
Michael Minott is frustrated.
"What was so offensive is that for us to just simply get the property back we had to give them money," he said. "That makes absolutely no sense to me.”
His wife, Karen, called the situation "outrageously criminal."
"If we, or you or I were to go into a store and steal a pair of earrings, steal a shirt, something like that, we could expect to go to jail," Karen Minott said. "But you can steal somebody’s property and then the person is required to spend thousands of dollars with lawyers and a slow court system to try and sort it out.”
Their attorney says she is preparing papers to go to civil court and ask a judge to negate both fraudulent deeds and have the property put back in the Minott name.
Law enforcement sources tell the I-Team a criminal investigation has been launched to look into how the deeds were transferred.
A spokesperson for the city's Department of Finance said that NYC did not track deed fraud cases prior to 2014. Sonia Alleye added that the Sheriff’s Office is now investigating suspicious recordings. By law, The City Register is required to accept documents in recordable form: meaning the document is certified by a public notary, has a seller and buyer signature (under certain circumstances), and includes all required legal documents, such as transfer tax forms.
So what can you do to protect your home in New York City? Some tips include:
- Check your property records yearly at www.nyc.gov/finance.com to make sure there are no unfamiliar deeds and/or mortgages recorded on your property. And make sure the Department of Finance has the correct mailing address for you to receive notices.
- Register to be enrolled in the free Recorded Document Notification Program at www.nyc.gov/finance.com. You will be notified by email or text, if a document is recorded on your property.