Everybody knows it can be difficult to find a decent apartment in NYC at a decent price, but this is a bit extreme.
A Brooklyn scammer spent four years fooling her dead aunt’s co-op board into thinking the woman was still alive, to keep living in the rent-stabilized apartment for $287 a month, a lawsuit charges.
Brenda Williams, 55, gave neighbors regular health updates on Debbie Vaughan long after the woman died at age 93 in 2007 — and pulled out all the stops to keep board members at the Prospect Park building from trying to contact the woman, the lawsuit says.
Williams claimed “her aunt was paranoid and senile and if we knocked on the door, she would have a heart attack,” said the co-op board’s president, Diana Hansen-Young. The suit was filed Phillip Cramer, the apartment’s owner.
The alleged scam was uncovered in 2010, when Hansen-Young and a plumber went into the apartment on Vanderbilt Avenue to fix a leak.
Williams blocked the entrance to the living room and said, “You can’t see her right now — she’s sick and she’s sleeping,” Hansen-Young recalled.
But Hansen-Young insisted and brushed past Williams into the room — which was empty but for a bare mattress and a bureau with mail piled on it.
“I had to bring her to North Carolina to see family,” Williams then explained, Hansen-Young said.
When Cramer checked death records, he found that Vaughan had died almost four years earlier.
Cramer is now trying to evict Williams from the 550-square-foot apartment, which has hardwood floors, exposed brick and high ceilings — and should rent for about $2,200 a month.
Cramer had kept Vaughan’s rent low — even as the neighborhood gentrified — because of her advanced age, poor health and poverty, the suit says.
Before Vaughan’s death, Williams told Cramer she lived with her aunt and helped out by “cooking for her, bathing her, and taking her to doctors, supermarkets, church and senior-citizen centers,” the suit charges.
But Williams really lived down the block with a boyfriend, said attorney Peter Sanders, who filed the $405,000 suit in Brooklyn Supreme Court on March 20.
“She moved into the apartment after her aunt died,” Sanders said. “She would pay the rent by money order with her aunt’s name years after her aunt died.”
All along, “she pretended like she’s alive,” Hansen-Young said. “She gave updates on her health, like, ‘She’s feeling better today,’ or, ‘She has a touch of arthritis.’ ”
Sanders said Williams continues to come to the building, even though there’s an ongoing housing case to get her evicted.
Williams, a city Department of Education school-improvement specialist for 25 years, said, “I don’t care what The Post writes. Call my lawyer,” and hung up when reached by phone.