A 33-year-old Brooklyn real estate broker has been charged with stealing a total of $103,021 from Brooklyn renters searching for homes and medical distribution companies that he had promised to supply with personal protective equipment, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced Tuesday.
According to the DA, in late 2019 and early 2020 Michael Kapelow, of Manhattan Beach, stole $21,225 in security deposits and advance rental payments from two couples who were trying to rent an apartment at 380 Neptune Avenue, as well as $5,990 from another person trying to rent an apartment at 40 Shore Boulevard — both in Brighton Beach.
In each case, Kapelow allegedly told the victims he would forward the funds to the building’s landlord or management company, only to deposit the money in his own bank account.
Then, between June and December 2020, Kapelow allegedly stole a total of $69,556 from three medical distribution companies that he had promised to supply with PPE. In each case, Kapelow allegedly lied and claimed to own – or have access to – hundreds of boxes of medical gloves.
However, Gonzalez said the PPE had never existed.
The owner of one of the companies became suspicious of Kapelow’s repeated delays in providing the PPE and went to the location where he said his warehouse was located, only to find an abandoned dance studio, the investigation says.
Kapelow is also alleged to have scammed an investor out of $6,250 after promising to partner on a PPE sale and split the profits.
None of the victims in either the rental apartment or PPE frauds ever received their money back despite repeated and urgent requests, the investigation alleges.
Through various excuses and evasions, Kapelow was able to string the victims along, including by claiming he had suffered a family or medical emergency, Gonzalez said.
In reality, he withdrew most of the money in cash or spent it at various casinos in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - often within one or two days of receiving it, the investigation alleges.
Gonzalez said Kapelow allegedly took advantage of people seeking housing in Brooklyn and then, after the onset of the pandemic, exploited shortages of essential PPE.
“He allegedly stole not only money, but wasted valuable time and resources needed to protect essential workers in a time of unprecedented crisis. We will now seek to hold him accountable for his alleged crimes.” Kapelow is charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny, six counts of third-degree grand larceny, two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud and four counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument. He was released without bail and ordered to return to court on May 31, 2022.