New York Daily News: By John Annese – A scam artist used stolen identities to rent high-end apartments for New York City gang members — and business was so good she was driving a Bentley and living in a Manhattan luxury building overlooking the Hudson, authorities allege.
When federal agents arrested 35-year-old Latoya Williams in her home at the Waterline Square on W. 61st St., Wednesday they found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, law enforcement sources said.
A murder in Queens helped the FBI to unravel Williams’ scheme, according to a complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Police found the bullet-riddled body of a Makk Balla Brims member in Queens on Feb. 7, 2021, and a search of the dead man’s phone turned up correspondence with Williams’ number — which was listed as “Toya Apartments” in his contact list, according to the complaint.
That murder victim, Tyrone Jones, 37, was shot dead by Law and Order: SVU actor Isaiah Stokes, in a fight over a woman, police and prosecutors have said.
Williams has been running the rental scam since at least 2020, and “used forged identification documents, paystubs, tax documents, and other falsified paperwork to obtain property rentals and utility services in high-end apartment buildings in and around New York City,” according to the complaint.
Along with the stash of cash, which FBI agents found in a bed frame, authorities also found two expensive watches during the search of her home — one appraised at $170,000, the other valued at $150,000 to $200,000.
She reported her luxury ride, a 2019 Benltey Bentayga, stolen from her parking garage in June, the feds said.
The victims whose identities she stole have been targeted by lawsuits and debt collection services, trying to recoup months of unpaid rent, prosecutors allege.
And police found five handguns hidden in one Brooklyn apartment she rented to the Wood City gang, prosecutors said.
When law enforcement officials raided a Yonkers apartment used by the Wood City gang in August 2021, they found more clues about her operation, including letters demanding one of the ID fraud victims pay her late rent.
An investigation found that person, and name of a second victim on the leases of several other apartments, including two places in Brooklyn.
A Brooklyn management company kept a photo of Williams when she viewed an apartment under one of the victim’s names in October 2020, and last November, the FBI surveilled her as she renewed the lease of a Bayonne, N.J. apartment under the other victim’s name, according to the complaint.
At her arraignment Wednesday, assistant US Attorney James McDonald requested Williams be held without bail, describing her as a “serious risk of flight ” because of her access to easy cash, fake IDs and gang members willing to help her.
“What you see is a significant risk that she could use these identities, use this cash and hide out,” he said.
Her lawyer, the Federal Defenders’ Karume James, pointed out that she takes care of her 13-year-old niece, has close ties to her sister, and works as a real estate agent, a manager of three Airbnb locations, and does hairstyling work.
“She has every reason to stay here,” he said.
Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara ordered Williams released on $250,000 bond, secured by her sister, and ordered the court’s pre-trial services division to monitor all her e-mails and cell phones as a condition of her release. Her sister was also named her “third-party custodian,” meaning that she could go to jail for criminal contempt if Williams violates the terms of her freedom.
Top Feature Photo: Waterline Square on W 61st St in Manhattan – Shutterstock