QUEENS, N.Y. (WABC) — It’s what New York Attorney General Letitia James called a “relentless crime” that targets the elderly and often people of color: deed theft.

On Friday, James announced the indictment of five alleged members of a document theft ring accused of stealing three homes from elderly homeowners in Jamaica and St. Albans, Queens.

According to the indictment, the defendants posed as homeowners using fake driver’s licenses and Social Security cards and foreclosed on properties with forged signatures on deeds and documents.

“No one should have to face the nightmare of having their home burglarized without any warning, knowledge or reason,” James said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the charges. “Theft is a ruthless crime targeting the elderly, and often people of color, who are asset-rich but cash-poor and rely on their homes as a stabilizing force for their families and loved ones.”

According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, deed theft is becoming more common and a growing problem.

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According to the indictment, 47-year-old Marcus Wilcher targeted abandoned homes with absent owners. Stacey Saunders, 51, sold the homes to investors at discounted prices. The pair then found personal information about the owners and recruited people to impersonate them at the closing.

Anyekache Hercules, 47, allegedly created forged documents. Jerry Currin, 66, and Dean Lloyd, 61, posed as the home owners.

According to the indictment, the quintet targeted three Queens homes and sold them for more than $1 million.

Saunders, Hercules and Karin face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of money laundering, grand theft and other charges.

Wheeler and Lloyd are not yet in custody.

READ ALSO | A New York City Council committee is holding hearings on a bill to end criminal background checks on renters


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