Man stays rent-free in iconic New York hotel for 5 years, later claims to own it | Trending - Hindustan Times

Man stays rent-free in iconic New York hotel for 5 years, later claims to own it

ByTrisha Sengupta
Feb 22, 2024 08:22 AM IST

Mickey Barreto "allegedly registered the hotel in his name and demanded rent from tenants" after staying in the New Yorker Hotel for free for five years.

A man faced arrest after he claimed ownership of a hotel where he stayed for five years for free. As per reports, the man found a loophole in the local housing law and exploited it to stay at a hotel in New York without paying any rent. Reportedly, he also claimed ownership of the building and demanded rent from another tenant.

The man who was arrested after claiming ownership of the New Yorker Hotel first stayed in the place back in 2018. (AP)
The man who was arrested after claiming ownership of the New Yorker Hotel first stayed in the place back in 2018. (AP)

According to the court documents by Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the man, identified as 48-year-old Mickey Barreto, “allegedly registered the hotel in his name, demanded rent from tenants, attempted to evict the previous owner from premises while making a series of fraudulent filings”.

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“As alleged, Mickey Barreto repeatedly and fraudulently claimed ownership of one of the City’s most iconic landmarks, the New Yorker Hotel,” said District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. “We will not tolerate manipulation of our city’s property records by those who seek to scam the system for personal gain,” Attorney Bragg added.

How did Mickey Barreto manage to stay in the hotel for free?

As per the court documents, Barreto first stayed at the New Yorker Hotel for one night in 2018. However, the next day he requested the hotel to enter into a lease agreement with him.

Barreto shared that when he moved to New York from Los Angeles, his boyfriend told him about a loophole in local law, reports the Los Angeles Times. The loophole reportedly allows the “occupants of single rooms in buildings constructed before 1969 to demand a six-month lease”. Barreto argued that he should be counted as a tenant in the hotel as he paid for one night.

Also Read: Woman with 41 in bank account dupes luxury hotel in Delhi of around 6 lakh

When the hotel refused to agree, Barreto kept his belongings in the room and left the building, according to the court documents. The hotel, in turn, returned his belongings and asked him to leave. Barreto then filed a lawsuit in housing court and claimed that he was wrongfully evicted from the court. Following which, “the housing court judge issued an order granting Barreto possession of a particular room at the hotel”.

However, the saga didn’t end there. In 2019, Barreto uploaded fake documents onto the New York City Department of Finance’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS), according to the court statement. He also uploaded a “fraudulent deed purporting to transfer ownership of the entire New Yorker Hotel from a religious organization, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA), to himself”. He then started “holding himself out as the owner of the hotel, including demanding rent from one of the hotel’s tenants”.

The real hotel, HSA, owner filed a lawsuit against Barreto in New York County Supreme Court after he demanded they vacate the hotel and also send the tenant’s rent payments to him. He got in touch with the hotel’s franchisor, Wyndham, to get the franchise transferred to him.

The hotel’s real owner “successfully obtained an order forbidding Barreto from making further false filings or holding himself out to be the hotel owner”, as per the court documents.

Also Read: Family in China gives up living in a flat, opts to stay in a hotel for 11,000 per day. Here’s why

How did Barreto react to this new ruling?

“I never intended to commit any fraud. I don’t believe I ever committed any fraud,” Barreto told the Los Angeles Times. “And I never made a penny out of this,” he added.

As per the outlet, Barreto says that his legal dispute is actually activism. He aims at denying profits to the HSA. The church holds mass weddings and has reportedly been previously criticised over its friendly relationship with North Korea, the birthplace of the church's self-proclaimed messiah, the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The church, however, was founded in South Korea.

Barreto told the outlet that he never hired a lawyer and always represented himself. However, he recently hired the services of a criminal attorney.

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