A landlord used a former NYPD officer to harass tenants and evict residents in rent-stabilized apartments, according to a civil suit filed Monday by the New York state Attorney General.
In some cases, the landlord would refuse to acknowledge the tenants' rent checks, then sue them for not paying rent, the suit claims. In other cases, residents say construction caused ceilings to cave in.
Landlord Steven Croman and private investigator Anthony Falconite are accused of using illegal tactics to push low-income and working-class residents out of their homes.
Croman oversees about 140 apartments in New York City, according to the suit.
Croman pressured rent-stabilized tenants to accept buyouts of a few thousand dollars or a few months free rent in exchange for their apartments, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
Ex-NYPD officer Falconite would then threaten tenants and pose as a repairman and building manager to gain access to the properties, according to the suit. Falconite used his status as a former officer to intimidate residents, Schneiderman alleges.
According to prosecutors, Falconite once wrote that obtaining buyouts was a “team sport,” to which a property manager responded, “I know that!! Who’s our next target? We have to start lining them up!!!”
In an effort to sell and profit from his properties, Croman’s companies also performed illegal construction by not obtaining permits, filing false documents to avoid oversight and disobeyed stop-work orders.
Among the construction violations, inspectors found high levels of lead dust on more than 20 occasions, including up to 65 times the legal threshold, prosecutors say.
One tenant who cared for her disabled grandsons, ages 3 and 9, had to move the children out of the apartment because of the construction and lead dust, the lawsuit alleges.
It was not immediately clear if Croman and Falconite have attorneys.
It was also not clear if the two men will face criminal charges.