Ricardo Bentham, 58, Jamaica, New York, has been charged today with grand larceny and other crimes for allegedly conning a 101-year-old neighborhood friend into transferring the deed of his long-time home into the defendant’s name in October of 2017.
According to the criminal complaint, the defendant submitted a quitclaim deed to be filed with the city on October 5, 2017. The document stated that the victim, 101- year-old Woodrow Washington was transferring ownership of his 143rd Street, Jamaica, New York, home which has a value in excess of $50,000 to the defendant for a sale price of $0.
According to the complaint, the victim did not realize anything was awry until he received a letter from the Department of Finance stating that the deed to his home had been transferred to defendant Ricardo Bentham. An inquiry was conducted with the New York City Automated Register Information System which revealed that the document that was filed bears the signature of the Mr. Washington along with a notary stamp and signature of a notary. Mr. Washington stated that the signature on the form is his, however, he is adamant that he never signed any documents in front of a notary. Mr. Theodore White, a 93-year-old notary, who was later questioned by detectives acknowledged that he also knows the defendant from the neighborhood and would often sign documents brought to his home by Bentham because he trusted him. Mr. White, though, said the document bearing his signature was missing the notary seal, which he always added to a document.
Furthermore according to the charges, Mr. Washington identified the defendant as a neighborhood friend who offered to help him collect rent from his tenants. He also stated that he recalled signing documents that the defendant brought to his residence and that some of the forms were blank.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown made the announcement.
District Attorney Brown said, “This is a particularly troublesome case. The defendant was supposedly assisting his centenarian neighbor collect rent from his tenants, but in actuality the helper is alleged to have duped the old man into signing away his home. If the charges are proven true, the defendant now faces prison time for his actions.”
Bentham was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Gershuny on a complaint charging him with second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. Judge Gershuny released the defendant on his own recognizance and ordered him to return to court on August 21, 2018. If convicted, Bentham faces probation to up to 15 years in prison.
The case was investigated by Detective Gloria Castelbanco of the New York City Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation under the supervision of Sergeant Teresa Russo and the overall supervision of Sheriff Joseph Fucito.
Assistant District Attorney Christine Burke, of the District Attorney’s Elder Fraud Unit of the Economic Crimes Bureau, is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Silvana T. Sutich, Accountant and James J. Dever, Supervising Accountant Investigator, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Kristen A. Kane, Chief of the Elder Fraud Unit, Gregory C. Pavlides, Bureau Chief, and Christina Hanophy, Deputy Bureau Chief, and the under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco.
It should be noted that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.