For six years, a man dressed up as his dead mother in a strange real estate fraud that involved doctoring her death certificate and cashing her Social Security checks.
On May 3, Thomas Parkin was convicted on charges including grand larceny and mortgage fraud. Prosecutors stated that Parkin wore a blond wig, dress and oversized sunglasses in a scheme that lasted six years.
The scheme began in 2003 when Parkin’s mother, 73 year-old Irene Prusik, passed away. Parkin began impersonating his mother to cash her Social Security checks and keep her $2.2 million brownstone in Park Slope, New York. Although the house had been deeded to Thomas Parkin, he couldn’t make the mortgage payments and the house was later sold at a foreclosure auction, prosecutors said. A co-defendant and Parkin later sued the new owner under Prusik’s name for real estate fraud, saying the auction was invalid in part because she was still alive.
According to the prosecution, Parkin had doctored his mother’s death certificate to maintain the ruse, and then went to the Department of Motor Vehicles dressed in her blond wig, dress and oversized sunglasses so he could obtain a renewed driver’s license. He also cashed Prusik’s Social Security checks for six years, the checks totaling $44,000.
The jurors deliberated less than a day before finding Parkin guilty. At the trial, the jurors were shown security footage of Parkin in drag, but his attorney said it could have been anyone.
When the property dispute dragged on, the district attorney was contacted by both sides accusing each other of fraud. By the time investigators had arranged a meeting with the family, they had proof that Prusik was dead. The proof was a photo of her tombstone in a local cemetery. According to prosecutors, although they knew Prusik was dead, the investigators played along as Parkin showed up for the interview “wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank”.
Thomas Parkin was sentenced to 13 to 41 years in prison on charges that included grand larceny and mortgage fraud.
Mortgage fraud is a crime in which the intent is to materially misrepresent or omit information on a mortgage loan application to obtain a loan or to obtain a larger loan than would have been obtained had the lender or borrower known the truth. In the United States federal courts, mortgage fraud is prosecuted as wire fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. As the incidence of mortgage fraud has risen over the past few years, states have also begun to enact their own penalties for mortgage fraud.
Grand larceny is the crime of theft of another’s property (including money) over a certain value. Some states only recognize the crime of larceny, but draw the line between a felony (punishable by state prison time) and a misdemeanor (local jail and/or fine) based on the amount of the loot.
A co-defendant, Mhilton Rimolo, 49, was sentenced in October 2010 to three years in prison after he was convicted of grand larceny.
At sentencing, Parkin said that he never hurt anyone or used stolen funds for personal gain or injury.