Man Lives Rent-Free in NYC Hotel for 5 Years

( – A man in New York City who lived in one of Manhattan’s landmark hotels rent-free for five years by exploiting loopholes in city housing laws has now been arrested and accused of fraud after trying to claim ownership of the entire building and to collect rent from another tenant.

According to New York prosecutors, 48-year-old Mickey Barreto exploited an obscure city housing law in order to squat in a room at the New Yorker Hotel for five years. Now, he’s facing accusations of fraud for claiming to own the entire building in a paperwork filing, as well as trying to charge rent to another tenant.

Barreto was arrested on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and now faces charges for falsifying property records and criminal contempt. He told reporters he was shocked by their arrival because he believed the case should’ve been considered a civil one.

Law enforcement showed up with bulletproof shields and guns drawn. Barreto said he thought at first that his boyfriend was “doing something for Valentine’s Day” by hiring role playing actors to “spice up” their relationship until he noticed some of the officers were female.

Barreto moved from Los Angeles five years ago, paid $200 for a room with his boyfriend, and then exploited a law allowing single room occupants to ask for a six-month lease if the building was constructed before 1969. The New Yorker was built in 1930.

After being denied a lease by the landlord and a lower court judge, Barreto won in New York Supreme Court, and didn’t pay any rent until July 2023. The court ordered the hotel give Barreto a key to his room, but the owner would not negotiate a lease.

Although Barreto won “possession” of the room, prosecutors said he didn’t stop there. He uploaded a counterfeit deed to the city claiming to be the new owner of the hotel, tried to transfer the owner’s bank account to himself, and even tried to charge another tenant. Barreto argues that because the building was never subdivided the court actually gave him the whole property.

He now potentially faces eviction and has hired a criminal defense lawyer to fight the charges.

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