The mysterious case of the Chelsea apartment bought with a million-dollar bribe

By S. Jhoanna Robledo  | May 31, 2016 - 12:15PM

It's no secret we love podcasts here at Brick—we have one of our own, too!—and especially those that unpack the ways real estate is transacted in New York City. Enter the latest episode of NPR's Planet Money, which delves into the purchase history of one particular apartment in a building on 28th Street in an episode tastily titled, "How To Hide A Million Dollars In Plain Sight."

In it, host David Kestenbaum and NPR correspondent Ilya Marritz tell the story of "apartments where the lights do not go on at night, the owners are mysterious and you can't figure out who they are or where they got the money to pay for the place." As reported in a powerhouse series published by the New York Times last year, many luxury condos in the city are bought through trusts and shell companies that don't reveal who the new owners are (the story focused on one condo in particular); and while some of them are wealthy buyers (and celebrities) who simply want the anonymity, a significant number represents "a growing proportion of wealthy foreigners," some of whom "have been the subject of government inquiries around the world, either personally or as heads of companies." As Planet Money reports, "buying real estate with dirty cash seems to be a thing these days."

In the case of apartment 5B in an unspecified building on 28th Street, Planet Money reporters found that the unit had been purchased as a way to launder a million dollars, the space uninhabited. Just who were the unscrupulous buyers, and how did the government track them? We don't want to give the story away, so listen below, or download the episode from Planet Money. We assure you, it's a riveting tale—and yet another viewpoint to add to the continuing debate over the condo-fication of NYC. 



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