NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The shattered real estate market has apparently created opportunities for scam artists.

Eighteen people – including a former pastor – have been arrested and charged with real estate crimes including reverse mortgage scams, loan modification and deed theft.

Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes said the defendants preyed on Brooklyn homeowners and people attempting to buy homes.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports on the real estate fraud

“In fact one of these offenders, a man named Ralph Baker had the gall – or we would say in Brooklyn the chutzpah – to come to my office claiming that his $1.7 million property was stolen,” said Hynes.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports investigators quickly learned the 61-year-old didn’t own the Brownstone. Hynes said the property was actually owned by another man named Ralph Baker.

The alleged phony Ralph Baker was arrested.

Sen. Charles Schumer describes the scheme one of the more “sleazy” types of crimes, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports

Hynes said his investigators will not stop until the real estate thieves stop and he gave Senator Charles Schumer the credit for getting the funds to support his investigative unit.

“There is a new sheriff in town and you’d better watch it,” said Schumer.

The Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit has launched 250 investigations since 2009 and have prosecuted 40 cases.

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