A Brentwood, Long Island woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years probation for stealing the home of a 93-year-old Queens man suffering from Alzheimer's disease and then let it fall into foreclosure.
Rebecca Tharpe posed as a legitimate buyer for the home of Artee McKoy, a retired barber with diminished mental capacity, and forged his signature on a sales contract. The contract was used to obtain a mortgage on the property. Tharpe then sold the house for $395,000 and pocketed $102,000. Tharpe's accomplice, Alexandra Gilmore, received more than $200,000 in proceeds, including a $97,000 check that had been made payable to McKoy and an additional $130,000 which she secured by setting up a real estate company and falsely claiming to have been owed the money from a previous mortgage loan on the property.
Gilmore also took advantage of McKoy's diminished capacity to twice refinance a property he owned in Bayside, New York by claiming that she was McKoy's daughter and that he was refinancing the property in order to make cash gifts to his children. Earlier this year Gilmore pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree grand larceny as a hate crime and was sentenced to two to six years in prison.
Gilmore opened an account in McKoy's name without his knowledge at Commerce Bank in Massapequa and directed that all account statements be sent to her house. A review of bank records by the District Attorney's office revealed that Gilmore withdrew more than $100,000 from the account four days after an unendorsed check for $129,268 had been deposited into the account and cleared. Several months later, she withdrew additional funds from the account after a second check - this time for $222,160 - had been deposited and cleared.
According to bank records, a few initial monthly mortgage payments were made on the Jamaica property before payment ceased all together and the house went into foreclosure. A civil court case is presently pending before Supreme Court Justice Howard Lane. The Bayside property has also been forced into foreclosure proceedings.
As a condition of Tharpe's probation, she will be required to speak at mortgage fraud forums by the District Attorney's Economic Crimes Bureau or the New York State Attorney General's Office, for a total of two years out of the five years that she will be on probation on why people should avoid becoming a straw buyer, the pitfalls associated with becoming one, the ramifications of becoming one, and the impact that being one has on the various people affected. This is believed to be the first prosecution and conviction of a straw buyer in a mortgage fraud scheme in Queens County, New York.