Two co-op board members and an office manager at the affordable Luna Park Houses on Coney Island have been indicted for accepting $874,000 in cash bribes to get ineligible applicants into apartments, NBC News reports.
The sweeping, 78-count indictment was announced Tuesday by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and the city’s Department of Investigation. It accuses co-op board president Anna Treybich, board treasurer Irina Zeltser, and office manager Karina Andriyan of falsifying documents that allowed people to leapfrog the long waiting list and get into 18 apartments in the 1,600-unit Mitchell-Lama cooperative. The trio is charged with conspiracy, grand larceny, forgery, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, and commercial bribe receiving. They allegedly used the proceeds from their scheme to buy luxury goods, including dozens of fur coats, designer handbags, jewelry, and Florida condominium units. If convicted, the women face up to 15 years in prison.
The accused submitted fraudulent documents to the department of Housing Preservation and Development, falsely showing that applicants were related to current shareholders and had lived with them for two years, the investigators said. That enabled the applicants to skip the thousands-deep waiting list because the Mitchell-Lama law allows family members to share and transfer their stake in the co-op.
“Corrupt insiders got cash bribes, applicants got the apartment they wanted without having to wait, and honest families got left out in the cold, never getting off the waiting list,” Gonzalez, the DA, said.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this,” says Dean Roberts, a member at the law firm Norris McLaughlin, who has worked extensively with Mitchell-Lama co-ops but is not involved with Luna Park Houses. “The Mitchell-Lama system lends itself to this kind of activity. The imbalance between the costs of apartments and their market value is a systemic incentive for graft. My experience is that real-estate crime is not usually prosecuted in New York. This time the DA seems serious.”
Margaret Garnett, commissioner of the Department of Investigation, recommended greater oversight by the city's department of Housing Preservation and Development, which, she says, currently has two employees handling documentation for more than 100,000 Mitchell-Lama apartments citywide.
Metro Management, the Luna Park co-op’s management company, did not respond to requests for a comment.
Thinking of buying a co-op or condo? Already bought, and not sure how co-op/condo life and rules work? Learn all about purchasing a place and living in your new community. It's not like renting, and its not like owning a house. What's it like?