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Kings Point man accused of stealing two Harlem brownstones

State Attorney General Letitia James speaks to reporters

State Attorney General Letitia James speaks to reporters outside the Touro Law Center on June 29. Credit: James Carbone

A Kings Point man is accused of stealing two Harlem brownstones via deed theft and mortgage fraud nearly a decade ago, the state attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Joseph Makhani, 58, was indicted and charged with several crimes alleging that in 2012 he illegally took over the two properties, using falsified and forged documents to cover up the scheme and keep control away from the true owners, according to a news release from the office.

Today, the properties are worth $2.29 million and $1.9 million, but Makhani claimed in tax filings that he paid only $10 a piece, the release said.

In the case of one of the properties, on West 118th Street, he allegedly used forged deeds and other phony documents to steal it from an elderly and disabled owner. For the other property, on West 131st Street, he allegedly and illegally transferred ownership, and forged a tenant's signature, which he got "through the guise" of offering the tenant a job, the news release said.

Makhani’s attorney, Leslie Nizin, wrote in a text message: "At his arraignment, my client stated in a loud and clear voice for all to hear: ‘NOT GUILTY.’ My client looks forward to his day in court when the facts of the case are heard, and he is vindicated. Until that time, the presumption of innocence rings loud and clear."

The news release said Makhani still owns the West 118th Street brownstone but he lost the other property due to unpaid taxes.

Makhani is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree, residential mortgage fraud in the first degree, residential mortgage fraud in the second degree, falsifying business records in the first degree, and scheme to defraud in the first degree, according to a copy of the indictment circulated by the attorney general's office.

The case is due back in court Oct. 12, according to online records.

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