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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
September 21, 2016

DA VANCE: CHERYL KEELING INDICTED FOR STEALING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS THROUGH UNLAWFUL HARLEM BROWNSTONE RENTAL

Defendant Rented out Apartments in Building She No Longer Owned

Defendant Also Failed to Pay Personal Income Taxes Over Four-Year Period

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of CHERYL KEELING, 65, for stealing more than $194,000 that the defendant unlawfully collected from the tenants of an apartment building in Harlem and for failing to file New York State income taxes corresponding to the funds collected as rent and other income that the defendant received. The defendant is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fourth Degree, among other charges. [1]

“New York apartments command high rent, and with it, opportunities for scammers to defraud owners and renters alike,” said District Attorney Vance. “As alleged in the indictment, the defendant rented out apartments when she had no authority to do so, used the proceeds to pay for a variety of personal expenses, and avoided the tax obligations borne by all New Yorkers. Tax fraud and theft of this kind are criminal offenses, and I thank our partners at the New York City Department of Finance for their assistance with this investigation.”

Commissioner of the New York City Department of Finance Jacques Jiha said: “Housing fraud is a serious and escalating crime in New York City, for which we have no tolerance. The Department of Finance has put a number of administrative and investigative processes in place to curtail illegal activities like these. We hope that this arrest will signal to others how seriously we take this matter.”

According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, in 2007, KEELING sold a brownstone building in Harlem to another individual, who encumbered the property with two mortgages—including one with a principal balance of $1.5 million. The buyer quickly thereafter defaulted on the mortgage, and the mortgage remained in default until the buyer passed away unexpectedly in 2011.

Purporting to act as the building’s property manager, KEELING held it out for rent and collected $5,000 each month from the building’s tenants, despite not owning the building or having any authority to rent it out. Under the terms of the mortgage, the rent corresponding to the building belonged to the lender and its successors: Bank of America, N.A., and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC. 

KEELING used the money to pay for personal expenses, including restaurant bills, luxury goods purchases at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, and outstanding credit card balances. In total, the defendant collected more than $194,000 from the building’s tenants between August 2011 and December 2014.

In addition, KEELING failed to file New York State resident income tax returns reflecting both the income that she received as rent, as well as wages received as a high school track and field coach for the New York City Department of Education from 2012 to 2014 and for the Ethical Culture Fieldston School from 2011 to 2014.

Assistant District Attorney Eugene Kornel is handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Anne Ternes, Deputy Chief of the Tax Crimes Unit, Assistant District Attorney Peirce Moser, Chief of the Tax Crimes Unit, and Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigations Division. Financial Investigator Je T’aime Mann-Athanase and Forensic Account Investigator Michael Frenza, both of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations Bureau, as well as Investigative Analyst Stasie Levin, provided additional assistance with the investigation. 

District Attorney Vance also thanked the New York City Department of Finance, and in particular, Chief Investigator Marta Rivera, City Tax Auditors Helen Yuen and Gino Pelaez, First Deputy Sheriff Maureen Kokeas, and Director of Tax Enforcement Robert Eisman, for their assistance with the investigation.

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.

Defendant Information:

CHERYL KEELING, D.O.B. 8/10/1951
New York, NY

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 2 counts
  • Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts
  • Repeated Failure to File Personal Income and Earnings Taxes, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fifth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

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