Woman sentenced in forged deeds case

January 30, 2009 9:47:03 AM PST
A woman was convicted of scamming dozens of people out of their homes by forging deeds has been sentenced. Maria Leyna Albertina stayed silent, declining to divulge any of her scam secrets as State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gary blasted her and then sentenced her to 5 to 15 years in prison.

She is charged with running a longtime forged deed scam to literally steal dozens of Brooklyn properties owned by absentee landlords, including a Brownsville home owned for 20 years by artist Garfield Gillings.

"She forged my signature and stole my house," Garfield said.

After we first exposed Albertina's operation in early 2004, the Brooklyn District Attorney indicted her and other in a scheme nicknamed "Operation Dirty Deeds."

In a high-profile stunt, investigators even paraded Albertina's confiscated boat down the street, but without fanfare, the DA's office agreed to let her out on bail. Eighteen months later, she was re-arrested for starting up her forged scheme again.

In May of 2006, Albertina pleaded guilty to first degree grand larceny, promising to pay $2 million in restitution to her victims for a lesser sentence. She got sprung a second time.

And what happened? Albertina didn't pay back the money, only a small fraction. She did allegedly come up with a new scam. Actually not new at all. She just started targeting properties to steal in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn, according to a new criminal complaint charging her with forgery and scheme to defraud.

"I did not authorize the sale of this. I don't know these people. I didn't try to sell to them, nothing," Pat Murillo said.

Murillo controls her uncle's estate, which includes this home on East 129th Street and vacant lots on Park Avenue. He allegedly signed them over to an alleged accomplice of Albertina's for no money.

When we showed Murillo a document with his uncle's signature dated 2009, he said, "It's not his signature because he died in 2002."

Murillo didn't know about Albertina's connection until we told her and about the convicted con artist's background.

"I don't know why she wasn't' in jail in the first place. She should have been.... It should not be this easy, absolutely, not to do all this damage," Murillo said.

It's damage that can take years to undo. Garfield Gillings still doesn't have his house back in his name.

"This thing is much bigger than she is. I don't think they're going to stop," Gillings said.