Deed Fraud Questions Arise in Case of Woman Fighting for East New York Home

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After months of trying to track down an elusive heir to the abandoned East New York house Sybil “Tami” Green moved into 10 years ago to find out if he willingly agreed to sign the deed over to a group of Brooklyn flippers who have filed to evict her, Green has had a development.

With the help of East New York Community Land Trust, Green, who is involved in multiple court cases in her fight to stay in the house at 94 Jackie Robinson Parkway, tracked down social worker Yudelka Guerra. Guerra said she worked at a shelter where Herman Greene, a son of the deceased owner, had lived.

Guerra has submitted an affidavit in the ongoing legal battle over ownership of the house, which alleges Herman Greene didn’t understand his right of inheritance when he was asked by his brother to sign the deed to the house over to the LLC, and he didn’t get any money for it. In New York State, property owners are required to have legal representation in property transfers.

Tami Green hopes the new information puts a possible spanner in the works of the two cases, a foreclosure case in Kings County Supreme Court and an eviction case in housing court – where just weeks ago Green’s eviction looked imminent – by challenging the validity of the 2021 deed transfer.

While Green, who is representing herself in the Brooklyn Supreme Court case, the lawyers for the flippers, for Michael Greene, and for the bank have been in and out of courtrooms for more than six months trying to close the case to different ends, legal action surrounding the house spans back more than a decade.

crowd supports Tami Green in court
Members of East New York Community Land Trust and other members of the community with Tami at Kings County Supreme Court in Downtown Brooklyn in March

A surprise sale

When homeowner Imogene Greene, the mother of Herman and Michael Greene, died in 2010 and stopped making payments on the $430,000 mortgage, a foreclosure motion soon followed in 2012. That motion was seemingly abandoned, and a new one was filed in 2017 by a separate bank that took over the mortgage.

In the intervening time, Green (no relation of the Greene family) stumbled upon the abandoned house in 2013, while she was homeless, and moved in. However, the bank never gave up on the foreclosure (it is now owed more than $800,000), and was trying to track down Michael and Herman as the heirs to the house, to no avail. Green, too, had no luck contacting the brothers, despite trying to many times over the years, she said.

Then in 2020, matters took a surprising turn when, according to public records, Michael Greene signed a contract agreeing to sell the property for $220,000 to a limited liability company called Jackie 42 LLC, managed by Elliot Ambalo. Ambalo, his brother, and an associate are property flippers who were deposed last year by the Queens Public Administrator over allegations of forged notary and heir signatures and deed fraud concerning other properties.

A few months later, the law firm Shiryak, Bowman, Anderson, Gill & Kadochnikov, LLP filed an opposition to the foreclosure proceedings on behalf of Michael Greene. The firm is arguing that the foreclosure should be nullified because it was filed against a deceased person, and that the bank waited too long to ask for a summary judgment, rendering the case abandoned.

If Greene wins the case, the bank will have to drop the foreclosure motion and the house will be in the hands of Jackie 42 LLC. If the bank wins, Jackie 42 LLC will have to pay off the mortgage as the new homeowner or let the house head to a foreclosure auction. What occupant Tami Green is arguing is that Jackie 42 LLC shouldn’t have any stake in the house, given the LLC’s alleged possible deed fraud.

front gable house with an american flag

Meanwhile, Jackie 42 LLC has filed to evict Green from the house, a motion that was granted despite Green’s challenges. She alleges in filings “the deed has fatal flaws: Herman Greene Senior is dead, and did not sign anything in 2021” and “Herman Greene Jr. is mentally disabled,” meaning he appears not to have had the capacity to sign over the deed given testimony in prior court affidavits. Affidavits from the bank in the foreclosure case seem to confirm that Herman has a mental disability and say he was in the care of his brother at some point.

Although not explicitly named in the foreclosure lawsuit, Green has also filed papers in the Supreme Court case, which had stalled from 2020 to mid-2022 due to the pandemic and subsequent moratoriums, asking the court to stay her eviction in housing court while the foreclosure lawsuit was decided.

In both cases, she has called on the court to grant her quiet title to 94 Jackie Robinson Parkway through adverse possession. Given she has lived in the house for 10 years, she believes she has a legal claim to ownership through the state’s rarely used adverse possession laws.

Eviction warrant issued, then stayed

Green was told on February 22 that a warrant would be issued for her eviction after it was granted by a housing court judge. She quickly issued emergency paperwork in the Supreme Court case asking for a stay on the housing court decision until a decision had been made in the foreclosure case, when there was another surprising turn of events: ENYCLT managed to track down Guerra.

Guerra promptly filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court case that says she met Herman Greene in 2020 when he was a resident of a shelter where she was working. Despite leaving the job, Guerra said she continues to see Herman Greene, visiting him regularly and helping him keep his affairs in order. Herman Greene has no legal guardian or payee, and is estranged from his only sibling, Michael Greene, Guerra said, adding Herman Greene “does not want his brother to know where he lives now.”

“As per Herman since his transition to housing in the community, he has not had any form of communication with his brother nor does his brother know where he resides or have his new telephone number,” Guerra’s affidavit says.

“Until he learned about this foreclosure case and the deed to Jackie 42 LLC from members of the East New York Community Land Trust, Mr. Greene was not able to remember the house number of the home he grew up in with his family, and did not know that it was a property he might inherit as an heir.”

Guerra said in the affidavit that when she showed Herman Greene the 2021 deed, which bears his signature, he responded that his brother and one of the Ambalo brothers (whom he identified from a photo) came to the shelter and got him to sign papers that he was told had something to do with the house.

“Mr. Greene did not receive any money in exchange for his signature, and did not understand that he should expect any,” the affidavit said.

tami green in front of her garage
Tami Green outside 94 Jackie Robinson Parkway in October 2023. Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

After the new information from Guerra was submitted to the court on March 4, Green filed more paperwork urgently asking the court to stay her eviction saying the new information “confirmed the circumstances around the deed are suspicious, and that Herman’s interests are not being represented in this case.”

“As described in the affirmation of his friend Yudelka Guerra, Herman is estranged from his brother Michael. It does not seem possible that Michael Greene’s attorney spoke to Herman on the phone and was able to conclude that his interests aligned with Michael’s, as he represented to the court in January. Further, Herman received no compensation for signing over his interest in the property.”

The Supreme Court granted Green a hearing on the new information and extended the stay on her eviction until that occurs. A date hasn’t been set for the hearing. Green also secured legal representation in her housing court case from Hubert Wong of Brooklyn Legal Services.

“We can’t speculate on the outcomes of Ms. Green’s cases,” said Humbert Wong, a housing attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services’ Tenant Rights Coalition who is now representing Ms. Greene in her eviction case. “But rest assured, we are exploring every legal tool and remedy available that would allow Ms. Green to stay in her home of 10 plus years.”

The case continues

In response to Guerra’s affidavit, Michael Greene’s lawyers filed paperwork arguing that Green’s request to stay the eviction should be denied. Lawyer Matthew Routh writes that Guerra’s affidavit “is made up almost entirely of inadmissible hearsay statements that can provide no evidentiary basis for Defendant Green’s arguments.”

“In essence, the Guerra affidavit is textbook inadmissible hearsay lacking probative value because Yudelka Guerra, save for the first few paragraphs, repeats out-of-court statements said to them by Defendant Herman Greene,” Routh argues, and adds that Guerra wasn’t with Herman and Michael Greene when they interacted.

He also questions the validity of the affidavit given it wasn’t notarized. “All factual and substantive statements asserted by the Guerra affidavit lack probative value and are inadmissible, and Defendant Green has no basis to succeed on allegations of “suspicious” deed transfers.”

Routh argues that Green is seeking an outcome of adverse possession that could only be achieved through legal action against Jackie 42 LLC, which is not party to the foreclosure case. Routh says Green would have to file a proper complaint against the LLC to seek quiet title and void the deed. (Potentially, Green could also ask the Kings County Public Administrator to investigate the deed transfer.)

“Defendant Green will not be irreparably harmed because she is not the owner of the Subject Property, so Defendant Green faces no consequences or liability other than being evicted. Defendant Green’s only claim for damages is that she will lose possession to a house she never even owned. Simply speaking, Defendant Green cannot establish damages,” Routh argues.

Previously, another member of Michael Greene’s legal team, Mark Anderson, told Brownstoner that he had not met Herman, that Michael said Herman had capacity and was competent to sign over his interests in the property, and Michael said it was done in front of a notary.

In a June 2023 affidavit from Michael Greene, filed in the eviction proceedings and cited by the bank’s lawyers in the foreclosure proceedings, Greene asked the court “to dismiss and reject all of the respondents past and future Order to Show Causes with prejudice and let the City Marshall finally evict them so Jackie 42 LLC and me can move on with our lives and let the respondents start taking accountability and responsibility for themselves.”

Brownstoner reached out to lawyers for Greene and the Ambalo brothers for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

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