A man lives for free in a famous New York hotel for five years, but then things go wrong  outside

A man lives for free in a famous New York hotel for five years, but then things go wrong outside

Most New Yorkers pay a lot of rent, and as a tourist, you also have to pay a lot of money to stay in The Big Apple. However, one man remarkably managed to live in a distinguished hotel in the heart of Manhattan for at least five years, without paying any rent. He played it smart, but he won in the end.

The New Yorker Hotel is located just steps from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. Not exactly one of the most glamorous hotels in New York, but it is one of the largest. Thanks to its large red New Yorker sign, it is an iconic and often photographed image of the city. A hotel you will of course have to pay for.

Non-payment of rent

However, Mickey Barretto (48 years old) did not do so, according to the news agency AP. He cleverly exploited a loophole in the law and lived in the New Yorker Hotel for five years without paying rent. It all started when the American and his partner paid nearly $200 (186 euros) for an overnight stay in one of more than a thousand rooms in June 2018. Barreto had just moved from Los Angeles to New York when his friend told him about a glaring loophole in local housing law that… Residents of single rooms in buildings built before 1969 are allowed to claim a six-month lease.

The command to give the key

Since Barreto had paid for one night at the hotel, he considered himself a tenant. But when he asked to rent the hotel, he was shown the door. He didn't stop there. The next day he went to court. The judge initially dismissed his case. But Barreto went to the Supreme Court and eventually won the appeal, after lawyers for the building owners failed to appear at a crucial stage of the case.

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The judge ordered the hotel to give Barreto the key. Because the building's owners never wanted to negotiate a lease with him, and can no longer evict him due to the judge's decision, the American can live in the building without paying rent until July 2023.

The false act goes even further

But the smart man overestimated his power, Manhattan prosecutors said this week. They acknowledged that the court granted Barreto “possession” of his hotel room at that time. But they say he didn't stop there: In May 2019, he uploaded a false deed to a city website, claiming to transfer ownership of the entire building to himself from the organization that had purchased the building in 1976. Unifying World Christianity. On LinkedIn, the man casually introduced himself as the owner.

The Unification Church sued Barreto directly in 2019 over the title claim. That case is still ongoing, but the judge has already ruled that Barreto is not allowed to pretend to be the owner in the meantime. The American ignored that. He also submitted additional false documents twice in 2023 in an attempt to secure ownership of the building. Barreto says the judge who granted him “possession” of his room in 2018 indirectly gave him the entire building because “it was never subdivided.”

The famous New Yorker sign on the hotel. © Getty Images

A person even wants to take over the franchise

The district attorney's office said that Barreto, as the alleged owner of the building, then attempted to press charges against several entities, including demanding rent from one of the tenants. Barreto also contacted the hotel's franchisee, Wyndham, and began discussions to transfer the franchise to him.

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Barreto was arrested on Wednesday and charged with fraud and providing false ownership information. The 40-year-old man said he was “surprised” when armed police suddenly appeared at his door. “I thought at first that my boyfriend might have organized something for Valentine’s Day to spice up our relationship. But then I saw the female officers,” Barretto said. AP.

“No intention to commit fraud.”

“Mickey Barretto repeatedly and fraudulently claimed ownership of one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the New Yorker Hotel,” prosecutor Alvin Bragg said. “We will not tolerate the tampering of property data in our city by those who attempt to defraud the system for personal gain.” Barreto himself says that he “never intended to commit fraud.” “I don't think I committed any fraud at all.”

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