A Flatlands man has been indicted and charged with grand larceny and burglary for allegedly filing a fake deed to transfer ownership of his landlord’s $759,000 rental property into a trust in his name, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said Tuesday.
James Effiwatt, 64, allegedly filed a fake deed to a three-story house at 36 Hubbard Place in Flatlands that transferred the title of the property from the owner, Hubbard Estates LLC, to an entity called the “Ayonkladd Trust,” of which Effiwatt was the trustee. The deed was allegedly signed by Effiwatt as a grantor despite the fact that he is not a member or trustee of Hubbard Estates LLC.
The building has an assessed value of $759,000 and has been owned by the legitimate owner, a 49-year-old woman, since 2015, Gonazalez said.
Effiwatt lived in the third-floor attic apartment of the building for several years beginning in August 2015, but allegedly stopped paying rent in the summer of 2017, Gonzalez said.
He was ordered to leave the property in October 2019 by city housing officials over housing code violations.
However, Effiwatt subsequently moved back into the attic apartment where he has remained since, and, since March 2021, he has approached several other tenants of the property and demanded they pay him rent, Gonzalez alleges.
Effiwatt also allegedly approached a real estate broker and discussed selling the property for six or seven hundred thousand dollars.
Gonzalez said title theft was a serious crime that deprived hard-working people of the “single most important asset any American can hope to own.”
“As real estate values continue to rise dramatically in Brooklyn, I remain committed to protecting homeowners across the borough from fraudsters who would steal their security and investment in the future,” he said.
Effiwatt was ordered held on bail of $25,000 bond or $10,000 cash and to return to court on February 15, 2022.