Daniel Melamed, a Crown Heights landlord from Great Neck, was found guilty on three counts of unlawful eviction, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced last Tuesday.
Prosecutors said that Melamed illegally shut off heat to rent-regulated tenants at 1578 Union St., repeatedly exposed tenants to lead dust by essentially beginning demolition, and removed the building’s boiler mid-winter without proper permission.
Melamed and six others were first indicted in June 2015 for unlawful eviction, filing a false document and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly tearing down a 14-unit building around its remaining three tenants.
The three tenants testified that they had to use ovens to heat their apartments, bathe using buckets and protected themselves from dust by covering their mouths and noses.
“We won’t hesitate to bring the full force of the law against anyone who harasses, intimidates, and jeopardizes the health and safety of tenants,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Daniel Melamed intentionally endangered rent-stabilized tenants in order to push them out — and line his own pockets.”
The verdict comes in wake of an investigation by the state’s Tenant Harassment Task Force, first formed in 2015.
“Mr. Melamed was the first landlord indicted by our Tenant Harassment Task Force – a distinction he richly earned by tearing apart his own building to force out a family with a young child,” City Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler said.
“Other landlords who put money ahead of people’s lives should take warning: we will not tolerate tenant abuse in New York City,” Chandler added.
Seth Denenberg, Melamed’s defense lawyer, was not immediately available for comment.
Melamed will be sentenced on Sept. 13. He faces up to one year in jail. In a separate case, prosecutors said that Melamed and six associates were also involved in alleged residential mortgage fraud and larcenies in Brooklyn.
Schneiderman said that Melamed and his co-defendents allegedly defrauded banks, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and taxpayers by creating shell corporations and forged letters between 2011 and 2014.
In one alleged incident, according to the attorney general’s office, Melamed and two other men, Carmen Morales, 51, and Abraham Perez, 66, submitted false documents that bolstered Perez’s income to falsely signal intent to occupy a Brooklyn building.
The office said Perez’s loan was approved, but that he defaulted less than two years later. HUD paid more that $480,000 in taxpayer money to cover the loss, the attorney general’s office said.
Melamed and David Soufeh, one of his associates, also allegedly recruited individuals who were in foreclosure and promised to relieve them of mortgage debt and cash, the attorney general’s office said.
Melamed, Soufeh, Curt Joseph, 48, and Denise Morales, 29, allegedly submitted false documents to facilitate this, the attorney general’s office said.
Additionally, the attorney general’s office said Melamed used a fraudulent corporation owned by Morales to purchase a property for $250,000 in 2013 and sold it for $1.25 million a year later.
The attorney general’s office said Melamed was also involved in an attempt to deceive JP Morgan Chase into approving a sale of a property owned by his mother to a corporation he controlled.
The charges in this case includes second-degree grand larceny, second-degree forgery and second-degree mortgage fraud. If convicted, Melamed and his accomplices face up to seven years in prison.