Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that an Ocean Hill woman and a former attorney have been indicted for stealing a total of approximately $544,000 from friends and acquaintances after telling them she was about to receive a multi-million dollar settlement of a lawsuit, but needed to pay off certain liens that were preventing the funds from being released. It is alleged that the former attorney knew some of the victims for many years and persuaded them to invest.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly defrauded many people by falsely claiming that one of them was about to receive a monetary windfall. We will now seek to hold them responsible and make their victims whole. I would strongly urge anyone who is offered a large sum for an alleged short-term loan to be very wary, as it is often a scam and a sure way to lose your hard-earned savings.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Helen Greenidge, a.k.a., Lurene Greenidge, a.k.a., Helen Lurene Elias, 55, of Ocean Hill, Brooklyn and Gerald Douglas, 52, of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Elias was arraigned on Monday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which she and Douglas are charged with second- and third-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud. Elias is also charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Elias was ordered held on bail of $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond. Douglas was arraigned today before Justice Chun and released without bail. Both defendants were ordered to return to court on July 28, 2021.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, from March 2018 to January 2020, Elias stole money from at least 10 people, convincing them to give her money by saying that she was about to receive a multi-million dollar settlement from a lawsuit, but needed money to clear several liens. She allegedly promised to return the borrowed money with substantial interest in a short period of time, sometimes promising to double or triple their money.
Furthermore, it is alleged, her co-defendant, Douglas, met with five of the victims – whom he had known for many years – and claimed Elias was his client and that she was due to receive a large settlement. He allegedly encouraged them to bring funds to him or Elias. It is alleged that Douglas acted in concert with Elias to steal approximately $301,000 from those five victims (of the total $544,00 charged in the indictment).
The victims allegedly gave the defendants varying amounts of cash ranging from $7,800 to $108,000. It is alleged the defendants simply stole the money and, when pressed by their victims, continued to make excuses about why there were no funds available.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this scam is asked to call the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.
The case was investigated by the New York City Police Department’s KCDA Squad.
Supervising Financial Investigator Vincent Jones and Investigative Analyst Nicholas Cohen, both of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, also worked on the case.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Maria Leonardi of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gregory Pavlides, Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of Investigations.
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