Fraudster almost stole historic hotel from church after digging in through housing court loophole

Mickey Barreto indicted on 24 counts in alleged scam to steal 42-story hotel

A New York City man who allegedly scammed his way into a luxury apartment by taking advantage of a housing court loophole has been indicted on 24 counts after allegedly attempting to steal ownership of a historic hotel from a church with false real estate filings.

Mickey Barreto, 48, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 14 felony charges of offering a false instrument for filing and 10 counts of criminal contempt in a failed plot to take over the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office.

And while he claims to run his own charitable mission, he appears to have broken at least three commandments along the way.


A person walks by The New Yorker, A Wyndham Hotel, in Manhattan, New York City

A person walks by the New Yorker, a Wyndham Hotel, in Manhattan, N.Y., March 23, 2022.  (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly / Reuters Photos)

Court records from before the indictment show Barreto forced his way into residency at the hotel by booking a room for just one night then demanding a lease under New York's rent stabilization law.

"When the hotel refused, Barreto left his belongings inside the room and left," Bragg's office said in a statement. "The hotel then removed his belongings, returned them to Barreto and asked him to leave."

He successfully sued for a wrongful eviction, and a housing court judge ordered the hotel to let him live in the room.

In May 2019, Barreto then allegedly submitted false filings, including a fake deed transfer for the entire hotel, through the city's automated information system.


After that, according to prosecutors, he began publicly posing as the new landlord, allegedly demanding that the building's real owner, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, leave the building and forward him rent payments.

Holiday Travel in New York City

Luggage at the New Yorker hotel ahead of the Christmas holiday in New York City Dec. 22, 2021.  (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon / Reuters Photos)

He allegedly registered the property under his own name with the city's water and sewer agencies and moved for control of the hotel's bank accounts. He even allegedly reached out to Wyndham, the hotel chain, to seek franchise ownership.

The church sued him, and by October 2019, a judge had stripped his ownership claim and restored the building to its proper ownership, prosecutors said in court Wednesday. The judge also ordered him to stop claiming to have an ownership stake in the hotel.

However, in September 2021, Barreto allegedly traveled to California to try and have the church dissolved there and merged into his own nonprofit, "Mickey Barreto Missions." In response, the attorney general of California dissolved his charity and fined him more than $6,000.

New Yorker hotel pictured in front of Empire State Building

The Empire State Building towers above the New Yorker Hotel Feb. 19, 2016, in New York City. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

But Barreto allegedly returned to New York City to file a fake contract agreement transferring the church's properties to the now-defunct Mickey Barreto Missions. 


"Barreto repeatedly and fraudulently claimed ownership of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the New Yorker Hotel," Bragg said in a statement. "We will not tolerate manipulation of our city’s property records by those who seek to scam the system for personal gain."

Prosecutors requested bail in the case, but a judge freed Barreto on his own recognizance.

Barreto is due back in court May 1.