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Judge makes example of L.I. con artist

The Queens district attorney’s office sentenced a straw buyer who conned a 93-year-old Alzheimer’s patient into foreclosing his homes in Bayside and Jamaica to telling the public about her crime after she serves a brief period in jail.

Rebecca Tharpe, 32, of Brentwood, L.I., was convicted last month on a falsifying business records charge for her role in the scheme that targeted Artee McKoy, who was being lied to by Tharpe’s accomplice, to sell and refinance his two homes, according to Brown.

As part of her sentence, which includes 30 days in jail, five years’ probation and a $2,500 fine, Tharpe was ordered by Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder to attend mortgage fraud forums sponsored by the DA’s office and speak out against becoming a straw buyer.

“Straw buyers are generally unaware of the enormous fiscal damage they can inflict on financial institutions and unsuspecting homeowners by just signing their name to mortgage papers,” the DA said in a statement.

“I commend Justice Holder for crafting a sentencing that holds the defendant responsible for her actions and requires her at the same time to educate people on the dangers of mortgage fraud schemes.”

The sentence followed a long investigation into a fraud scheme that began in August 2005 and marked the first time a straw buyer was prosecuted and convicted in Queens, according to Brown.

Tharpe assisted her friend Alexandra Gilmore in stealing McKoy’s primary residence, the DA said. The senior citizen’s name was forged on the contract for the sale of the home to Tharpe and the contract was used to file for a mortgage on the property, according to Brown.

The house was eventually sold for $395,000 of which Tharpe received $102,000 for “seller’s concession, which McKoy never agreed to. Gilmore received $200,000 from the sale, including a $97,000 check that was made out to McKoy and an additional $130,000 that she acquired by falsely claiming she owed money on a previous mortgage on the property.

Gilmore, 37, who lived in Massapequa, L.I., during the time of the scam but resided in Pittsburgh at the time of her arrest last year, is currently serving a two-to-six-year prison sentence for her March conviction on two grand larceny as a hate crime charges.

In addition to stealing McKoy’s Jamaica home, she also reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars from defrauding the senior citizen’s second home in Bayside. Gilmore, a family friend of the senior citizen, took advantage of McKoy’s mental state by refinancing the mortgage on the second property at 209th Street and 45th Drive twice in 2004.

She claimed she was the senior citizen’s daughter in an application for a $420,000 refinanced loan, stating the money was going to be used to give cash gifts to McKoy’s children, according to the DA.

Without McKoy’s approval, Gilmore had opened a bank account in Long Island and had all statements relating to the loan sent to her. The scheme was uncovered by McKoy’s goddaughter who became suspicious of Gilmore and called the authorities.

Eventually both the Bayside and Jamaica properties went into foreclosure.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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