Defendant Pretended to be a Landlord; Convicted of Stealing More Than $879,000 from Three Corporations

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of a property manager for stealing more than $879,000 from three corporations that own five rental apartment buildings near Columbia University. LUIS NUNEZ, 42, pleaded guilty to the top two counts in the indictment, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.

District Attorney Vance said, “The defendant took advantage of tenants — many of whom were Columbia University students — in order to enhance his own lifestyle.”

The crimes charged in the indictment occurred between June 2005 and April 2009. According to documents filed in court, NUNEZ was the sole property manager for the buildings and was responsible for nearly every aspect of their operation, from day to day upkeep to signing leases on behalf of the owners, collecting rent from tenants, making bank deposits, and maintaining the rent rolls and financial records.

In June 2005, NUNEZ began taking rent money from new tenants of one building and depositing the money into his personal accounts. He falsely told some new tenants that he owned the building, and directed them to make the rent checks payable to him personally. Over the next several months, NUNEZ was given management responsibility over additional buildings acquired by the company that employed him. This enabled him to expand his larcenous scheme and steal from multiple buildings simultaneously.

According to documents filed in court, NUNEZ was responsible for updating information in the computer software program used by the owners to manage the buildings, including inputting all information about the tenants and their rent payments. NUNEZ systematically manipulated and falsified the records to conceal his thefts from the owners. In some instances, NUNEZ failed to enter new tenant data into the system, leaving the true owners without accurate records of who lived in the buildings, and enabling NUNEZ to pocket the full rental income from those apartments.

NUNEZ used the stolen money to enhance his lifestyle, buying furniture, jewelry, and appliances, paying school tuition, and maintaining multiple cars. He also made sizable donations of stolen money to his church, according to documents filed in court.

Assistant District Attorney Om Gillett of the Special Prosecutions Bureau is in charge of the prosecution under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Thomas Wornom, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Judy Salwen, Deputy Chief. Senior Account Investigator Vincent Jones of the District Attorney’s Financial Crimes Bureau assisted in the investigation, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Frank Puma and Principle Accountant Investigator Michael Vecchio. Senior Investigator Randolph Donaldson and Investigator John Alfalla of the New York State Police also assisted in the investigation.

Defendant Information:

LUIS NUNEZ, 9/25/1967
Bronx, NY
· Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, one count, class C felony
· Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, one count, class E felony

A class C felony is punishable by a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, and a class E felony is punishable by a sentence of up to 4 years in prison.