Empire State Building quickly changes hands as New York Daily News "steals" it

Utilizing a bit of humorous slight-of-hand, the Daily News has successfully conducted a heist of one of our nation's most iconic buildings. The Daily News, by easily passing a few forged documents, liberated the Empire State Building from its rightful owners. This "theft" was done in an exercise designed to highlight a gaping bureaucratic loophole through which crooks can extract deeds to the real estate properties of others.


The good news is, the Daily News has given the building back.

The loophole, which was exposed through this courthouse gambit, involves administrative employees who are allowed to process real estate transfers without verifying information contained in the required documents.

The Daily News gave this report: "Less than 90 minutes after the bogus documents were submitted on Monday, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to (a dummy company)." The article goes on to expose several examples wherein real estate deeds have easily been extracted through the exploitation of a less than thorough process.It is a bit unnerving to think that crooks can so easily gain ownership of such powerful documents. However, the realities of this situation are easy to understand. In a system that's built upon the tenets of trust, honesty, and fair play, it's simple for unsavory characters to "pull a fast one."

It is this same level of trust which put our mortgage industry into such a destructive tailspin. Everyone believed that everyone else was playing by the rules. Everyone believed that the system could police itself. Everyone assumed that the mortgage industry was operating in everyone's best interest. Meanwhile, billions of dollars worth of foreclosure-destined mortgages were pencil whipped, bundled together, and then easily sold to eager Wall Street patsies.

This situation may also expose a very fundamental problem in our bureaucratic system. With increasing frequency, we are forced to deal with government employees who lack the basic skills to successfully execute their jobs. I myself have run across this sad reality within one particular county courthouse, where I had to assist a clerk through the steps of filing a court document for me. Perhaps she was working in New York when the Daily News made its play. That might explain how the bogus deed transfer was accomplished. Might some basic competency and literacy examinations for public employees be in order?

The era of trusting our fellow man is waning. We have entered the age of every man for himself and watch your own back. If we can't trust the city of New York to protect the Empire State Building from a hastily executed forgery attack, then how long can it be until the White House is deeded over to Nigeria?

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