Photo by Brian Turner

Landlord gets up to 12 years in prison for deed transfer fraud

Landlord John Kojo Zi has been sentenced to up to 12 years in prison for forging the deed transfers to five buildings in the Upper West Side and Hamilton Heights.

A New York State Supreme Court judge convicted Zi of grand larceny in the first and second degree, forgery in the second degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. Zi stole the titles to Manhattan properties 468 West 154th Street, 44 West 73rd Street, 339 West 84th Street, 335 West 84th Street and 468 West 145th Street.

“The defendant executed an elaborate scam using forged deed transfers to steal five buildings from Manhattan property owners,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “John Kojo Zi even had the audacity to attempt to collect rent from the tenants and threatened them with eviction if payments were withheld. ”

Zi was said to have forged deed transfers with the register’s office. His first attempt was with the 145th Street property. In September of 2013, he filed a forged deed transfer that included a signature from someone who claimed to the president of the corporation that owned the property. In addition to the forged deed, he also filed a document that supported the ownership claim of the signatory.

His most brazen attempt involved the West 73rd Street building. In April of 2014, he filed documents that transferred the property from its legitimate owner, Aviation Distributors, to his company, Kojo Global Real Estate Development. To support his claim, Zi said that Aviation Distributors was founded by his father. He also gave the New York City Sheriff’s Office a fraudulent contract that showed Aviation bought the building for $360,000 in 1976.

Zi was sentenced to four to 12 years in state prison. His other convictions include one count of scheming to defraud in the first degree and one count of making an apparently false statement in the first degree.

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