It was a classic set-up: a trusting, elderly woman with a valuable property and a clever con to separate one from the other.
Brooklyn lawyer Ifeanyichukwu Eric Abakporo and Latanya Pierce have been arrested for allegedly scamming an elderly woman out of her multi-million-dollar property in Harlem, then convincing the bank to give them a $1.8 million mortgage loan on the home, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Mr. Abakporo, 52, a Nigerian citizen and resident of Queens and Ms. Pierce, 43, of Brooklyn have been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and bank fraud conspiracy.
In March 2006, Mr. Abakporo and Ms. Pierce, who worked in the Brooklyn law office with him, cultivated a relationship with the elderly woman, who had owned an apartment building at 1070 St. Nicholas Avenue for more than 40 years.
The two earned the victim’s trust, the U.S. Attorney’s office said, by offering to help her manage the property. But the alleged deceit started almost immediately, with the dastardly duo pocketing renters’ money.
Next, they convinced the woman to sell them her building for $3.1 million, presenting her with multiple fake and fraudulent checks at the closing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Unsatisfied by this simple act of fraud, the pair then allegedly persuaded the woman to return the checks to them, assuring her they’d protect the money and giving her a “private mortgage” in the property—i.e. agreeing to monthly payments on the money she’d effectively loaned to them.
Although the pair had snatched the victim’s property at that point, Mr. Abakporo and Ms. Pierce decided to push their luck even further, taking out a $1.8 million loan on the property after persuading a bank that they’d bought it for $3.1 million, the attorney’s office said.
Not surprisingly, the loan was never repaid and the property went into default.
If Mr. Abakporo and Ms. Pierce are convicted, they face decades in prison. Mr. Abakporo is being held on bail set at $1 million. Ms. Pierce was released on bail set at $500,00o.
Alas, it’s not the first time that scam artists have preyed on elderly ladies with valuable property, and it probably won’t be the last.