Baldwin Slumlord Arrested for Illegally Renting Someone Else’s Property
Rice: Neely even tried to evict tenants from property that wasn’t his; facing felony charges punishable by up to 7 years
MINEOLA, NY - Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced today that investigators from her office have arrested and charged a Baldwin slumlord with breaking into an abandoned home that he didn’t own and renting out the apartment to an unsuspecting tenant. Rice said that the man even went to court to sue the tenant after the woman stopped paying rent because of the slumlord’s refusal to fix up the property.
Ozell Neely, 45, was arrested early Tuesday morning by DA Investigators and charged with Burglary in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and three counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Neely faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
“This individual brazenly endangered the life of an unsuspecting tenant and stole from an unsuspecting property owner,” said Rice. “His crime does not rank up there with the most sophisticated and it certainly wasn’t the most clever real estate fraud we have seen. But for a brief period in time, it worked and he profited. As we continue to feel the effects of the national and local housing crisis, we cannot let our guard down against those who lie, cheat and steal at the expense of the struggling landlord or the tenant in need.”
Rice said that in September 2008, Neely, doing business as Welcome Home Realty, took a prospective tenant to a vacant, boarded-up home in Baldwin. Neely did not own the home and he didn’t have permission to enter or rent the property. When they arrived at the property, Neely informed the prospective tenant that he had lost the key to the home. Neely tore down boards and used bold cutters to cut through a chain link that was being used to prohibit entry to the home.
Although there was no refrigerator, no water and the doors were so warped as to be unsafe, the tenant agreed to the rental terms of $2,200 per month, as long as the necessary repairs were made. Neely began collecting rent from the tenant, eventually collecting more than $10,000. Neely did not give any of the rent to the real owner of the property and he failed to make the promised repairs to the home. As a result, in April 2009, the tenant stopped paying Neely rent.
In April, Neely began eviction proceedings against the tenant. His attorney filed several Notices of Petition for Non-Payment against the tenant, which falsely stated that Neely’s Rosedale-based real estate company was the landlord of the property.
In June, the property’s real owner received a tip that someone may be living in the house. He approached the tenant at the home and later referred the case to the DA’s Office. The tenant moved out a month later.
The case is being handled by Assistant District Attorney Abigail Margulies, Chief of the Crimes Against Real Estate (CARE) Unit, and DA Investigator Edward Krayewski of the DA’s Investigations Division.