Realtor Claims to Own Manhattan Building: Sale of Property Lands Him in Jail

NY criminal defense attorneys are always being confronted with indictments and complaints against their clients for a wide variety of alleged fraudulent schemes. One such scheme just resulted in the indictment of Henry Vargas for the sale of a commercial building he claimed to own, but in fact, according to the Manhattan District Attorney, he did not.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau issued a press release alleging that during the past two years, Henry Vargas claimed to be the owner of 21-41 Lenox Avenue, a commercial building near Central Park. Although Mr. Vargas was not the owner of the property, it is alleged that he present forged documents to fool attorneys, business developers and other professionals into believing he had a controlling interest in the property.

One particular “victim” of his alleged scheme, Pete Skyllas, entered into an operating agreement for the property where Mr. Skyllas was to pay $4.8 million for Mr. Vargas’ ownership and rights which did not truly exist. As a result, Mr. Skyllas paid Mr. Vargas $1 million toward the purchase of the ownership rights.

In addition to agreeing to sell his ownership rights to Mr. Skyllas, Mr. Vargas allegedly agreed to sell the entire property to the New York Road Runners. The Road Runners placed $1 million dollars into an escrow account while spending an additional $300,000.00 in attorneys fees for the purchase of the building. The total price for the building was $8.5 million.

It was not until Road Runners notified the tenants of the building regarding the pending sale did the true owner learn of the scheme.

A Manhattan Grand Jury indicted Mr. Vargas on one count each of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree, both class C felonies. Because Mr. Vargas appears to be a “predicate felon,” he faces a mandatory minimum of 3 to 6 years in prison and a maximum of 7½ to 15 years. The Grand Jury also indicted him on one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and two counts each of Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, all of which are class D felonies carrying a mandatory minimum of 2 to 4 years in prison and a maximum of 3.5 to 7 years in prison.

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