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Did they put it in their back pocket after they took it?
December 5, 2008 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Empire State Building Stolen. The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property. Previously
posted by Xurando (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I suspect Eartha Brute.
posted by giraffe at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2008 [12 favorites]

So by this time next week I could be the proud owner of the Kingsbridge Armory and start establishing my fiefdom?
posted by JaredSeth at 6:47 AM on December 5, 2008

And if you believe that, I've got this bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you, real cheap...
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:56 AM on December 5, 2008

Giraffe, I can't favorite that hard enough.
posted by bookwo3107 at 6:56 AM on December 5, 2008

Next week: The Post shows how easy it is to shoot a guy by ... shooting a guy.
posted by Bummus at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Vapid, breast-clutching "hell in a handbasket" journalism does not a good FPP make. Nothing was stolen, it's fake documents stupid! Your basic fraud. Neither new nor clever. There is no loophole, the registers office does precisely what it was established to do and what its name reflects: register documents, mostly deeds and mortgages and the like. There is no warranty or implicit assurance of the validity of those documents. This article is utter rubbish.
posted by chlorus at 7:13 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dear sweet, bored, journalists. How would we fill the internetz without thou.
posted by scarello at 7:17 AM on December 5, 2008

Man, they didn't even make it disappear. Gothamist has a good blurb on the story, making it seem less news-tastic and more realistic:
Inspired by the Brooklyn DA's increasing number of deed fraud prosecutions, reporters decided to try the scam, which involves drawing up fake documents, making a bogus notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property. Grifters use the fraudulent deed to take out big mortgages, then disappear.
(And for those who didn't watch PBS or play sleuthing games on your home computer, here's a conversation between Carmen and Eartha)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2008

If you think this story is interesting, I've got a bridge to sell you.
posted by The White Hat at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2008

posted by mhoye at 7:32 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Little did they know it was actually one of those crappy Transformer-knockoffs from the movie Big...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:43 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

filthy light thief, you just made my day.
posted by spamguy at 7:49 AM on December 5, 2008

The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper...

You just know that Huey Lewis was giving the orders.
posted by Knappster at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2008

Stupid scaremongering journamalism.

The register's office doesn't verify anything on the documents you give it; it's not supposed to. That's because registering a document with them doesn't change legal title to anything. It just creates a paper trail so that people who care about ownership records don't miss something important. It's a system that tolerates false positives so that it minimizes false negatives. That's the system working as designed.

Anyone who actually wants to buy the Empire State Building, or to give a loan with it as collateral, has a duty to check the records to make sure they're dealing with the real owner. It's at that point that someone is supposed to notice that "Fay Wray" is a pretty suspicious name for a witness and that the whole record is screwy and so on and so forth. If people don't do proper due diligence in their land deals, the solution is for them to accept some responsibility and do their jobs right, not to blame the city's land recording office for doing its (limited) job right.
posted by grimmelm at 8:50 AM on December 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wow! They article says the new mortgage stays with the property? Why? It's the bank who failed their due diligence, not the city or owner. So it's the bank who screwed.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:12 AM on December 5, 2008

Recorded document ≠ legal document.

So this maybe puts a cloud on the title. So what; that's what title insurance is for. grimmelm, you're exactly right - the responsibility for due diligence is squarely on the shoulders of the lender considering the property as collateral; considering recent events in the mortgage industry, I'd imagine that the courts will be doing their parts to make very public example of real estate fraud offenders, too.

This "theft" is about as dangerous to the system as the "Redemption" schemes used by tax protesters to create charge accounts against the U.S. Gov't., supposedly redeeming their names from the world futures markets by filing bogus UCC statements. Good luck trying to capitalize on this.
posted by Graygorey at 12:26 PM on December 5, 2008

So it's the bank who screwed

At this point in history I think we can safely say that the bank is never screwed. You may be screwed. We may be screwed, everyone may be screwed, but not the bank. Ever.
posted by aramaic at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Recorded document ≠ legal document.

That used not to be the case in Ontario. You could (fraudulently) deed people's houses over to you, take out a mortgage, and then skip town with the money and the bank would foreclose on the house.
posted by oaf at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2008

I'm not a legal person but haven't they just admitted to a misdemeanor under NY state law?

§135-a. Notary public or commissioner of deeds; acting without appointment; fraud in office.
1. Any person who holds himself out to the public as being entitled to act as a notary public or commissioner of deeds, or who assumes, uses or advertises the title of notary public or commissioner of deeds, or equivalent terms in any language, in such a manner as to convey the impression that he is a notary public or commissioner of deeds without having first been appointed as notary public or commissioner of deeds, or
2. A notary public or commissioner of deeds, who in the exercise of the powers, or in the performance of the duties of such office shall practice any fraud or deceit, the punishment for which is not otherwise provided for by this act, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

posted by Talez at 3:25 AM on December 6, 2008

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