A man paid $200.57 for one night at a famous NYC hotel, then lived there rent-free for years. Now he could go to jail.

A man paid $200.57 for one night at a famous NYC hotel, then lived there rent-free for years. Now he could go to jail.
  • Mickey Barreto booked a one-night stay at the New Yorker Hotel in 2018 for $200.57.

  • He stayed and paid no rent for five years thanks to a local housing law.

  • Police arrested him in February. He's now facing fraud charges and possible jail time.

A man successfully lived in the iconic New Yorker Hotel building for half a decade without paying a single cent in rent — but the jig is up.

Police arrested Mickey Barreto in February and charged him with filing fraudulent property records after he attempted to claim ownership of the hotel, the Manhattan district attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said Barreto skirted thousands of dollars worth of rent payments by exploiting a little-known local housing law and then attempted to charge another tenant in the building rent.

“As alleged, Mickey Barreto repeatedly and fraudulently claimed ownership of one of the City’s most iconic landmarks, the New Yorker Hotel,” Alvin Bragg, Manhattan's district attorney, said in a statement.

Barreto is facing 24 charges, including 14 felony fraud counts. If he's found guilty, he could be sentenced to several years in prison, The New York Times reported.

Barreto's residency at the renowned hotel — which in its heyday hosted many dignitaries and celebrities, including Muhammad Ali and John F. Kennedy — dates back to 2018 when he first learned about New York City's Rent Stabilization Code. This law grants tenants who live in individual rooms within buildings built prior to 1969 the right to request a six-month lease.

New Yorker Hotel
The entrance to the New Yorker Hotel.Kevin Webb/Business Insider

In June 2018, Barreto checked into room 2565 with his partner, Matthew Hannan, for one night and was charged $200.57.

The following day, Barreto requested a six-month lease from the hotel and was promptly evicted.

Barretto — a California transplant with a penchant for conspiracy theories who also claims to be the leader of a tribal community he founded in Brazil, according to The New York Times — refused to take no for an answer.

Barreto was eventually caught in a web of lies

That July, he took the building's owner, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, to housing court, claiming he was illegally evicted. A representative for the church didn't show up, so the judge sided with Barreto, and the hotel had to give him the key.

The two parties never agreed on lease terms, and because he couldn't be evicted, Barreto lived at the hotel rent-free.

Soon, Barreto began portraying himself as the owner of the hotel and eventually demanded rent from one of the building's tenants, the TickTock diner.

The DA's office said that Barreto also registered the hotel under his name with the city's Department of Environmental Protection as part of an effort to gain control of the hotel’s bank accounts.

The Unification Church, which bought the New Yorker in 1976, sued Barreto for representing himself as the hotel's owner on LinkedIn and uploading a forged deed to a city website. Barreto was ordered by a judge to stop asserting that he owned the building, but he continued to live there.

Last year, Barreto again filed papers with the city claiming to be the building's owner, and that's when the district attorney's office stepped in.

Business Insider reached out to Barreto through his company, Mickey Barreto Missions, but didn't receive a response before publication.

“I never intended to commit any fraud. I don’t believe I ever committed any fraud,” Barreto told The Associated Press. “And I never made a penny out of this.”

A shot of the check-in desk at the New Yorker Hotel, which has an Art Decor painting behind the workers standing at the desk, and gold letters that spell out New Yorker Hotel above. Tourists in jackets with backpacks and suitcases stand in front of the desk.
The check-in desk at the New Yorker Hotel.Sharkshock

Barreto — who claims to be a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, according to the Times — is now awaiting trial.

In another bizarre move, Barreto claimed he placed his one phone call to the White House, leaving a message disclosing his location, before being released from police custody.

There's no evidence to suggest any connection between Barreto and the White House, the Times reported.

When asked for a comment by BI, the New York City Police Department directed questions to the district attorney's office.

Correction: April 12, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated details about the legal claims filed by Barreto and the building's owner. Barreto initially took the building owner to housing court for being illegally evicted, and a judge sided with him because a representative for the owner did not appear in court. That case did not go before the state Supreme Court and there was no appeal filed. The story has also been updated to clarify some details about the chronology of the legal disputes between the two parties.

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