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Lawyer And Colleague Charged With Ripping Off Washington Mutual Bank and Elderly Victim's Apartment Building
Written: May 2, 2012

Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Federal prosecutors allege that beginning in March 2006, lawyer Ifeanyichukwu Eric Abakporo, 52, a Nigerian citizen and resident of Queens, NY, with a law office in Brooklyn, NY; and Latanya Pierce, 43, who worked for Abakporo, cultivated a relationship with an elderly woman.  Mind you, this elderly woman wasn’t some homeless person but the forty-year owner of a residential apartment building worth millions of dollars located at 1070 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, NY.

Yeah, I know, you’d like to think that this is going to end as a warm and fuzzy tale of Good Samaritans doing the right thing and helping out a nice old lady. Then again, this is “Street Sweeper,” and I don’t do much warm and fuzzy.

Allegedly, Abakporo and Pierce offered to help the elderly woman manage her building by collecting rents. Apparently, Abakporo and Pierce got the collection part right; however, the Feds suggest that the two pocketed the payments rather than handed them over to the elderly building owner.

Bad enough but it gets worse.

Private Mortgage

Allegedly, Abakporo and Pierce then convinced their elderly victim to sell her property to them for $3.1 million; however, at the closing, the two apparent hustlers presented the senior citizen with multiple fake and fraudulent checks. Why? Prosecutors allege the various checks were used as part of a scheme to mislead the target into believing that the full sale price had been paid. Moreover, after the  victim’s attorney had left the closing, Abakporo and Pierce allegedly fraudulently induced her to return all of the checks to them by representing that they would safeguard her money and give her a “private mortgage.”

A private mortgage?  Oh, sure – the spiel here was that the seller had somehow loaned the buyers money and they would repay that monthly.  No, it’s not you.  I don’t get that either.  Still, a con is a con and a slick tongue can do wonders.  According to prosecutors, Abakporo and Pierce signed and provided their elderly victim with a written agreement representing that she had loaned them approximately $1.9 million and in return held a “private mortgage” in the building.  Unfortunately,  Abakporo and Pierce never  quite managed to get around to legally recording the private mortgage.Details, mere details.

Having essentially bamboozled an old lady out of her property, these two alleged crooks than made their way over to a Washington Mutual Bank where they submitted a fraudulent application for a $1.8 mortgage loan secured by the property. The two alleged con artists told the bank that they had purchased “free and clear” the building for $3.1 million.  Of course, according to prosecutors, Abakporo and Pierce didn’t bother disclosing to the bank that the subject property was already burdened with the so-called “private mortgage” held by their other victim.

The cherry and icing on this fetid cake is that Abakporo and Pierce allegedly obtained most of their elderly victim’s assets,  a $1.8 million mortgage loan from the bank – and, for good measure, they subsequently defaulted on the payments and the property went into default.

Indictment

On May 1, 2012, Abakporo and Pierce were named in an Indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan. Pierce voluntarily surrendered to the FBI and was arrested on May 1; Abakporo was arrested on May 2.  The two were each charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and bank fraud conspiracy.  The wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of 20 years.  The bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of 30 years.

Abakporo is currently detained pending his satisfaction of court-ordered bail conditions: a $1 million bond secured by an interest in property and co-signed by three individuals.  Pierce was released on a $500,000 bond to be co-signed by three individuals and secured by two properties.

NOTE: The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


 
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