FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Owner of Three-Quarter Houses and his Employee Indicted for
Fraud and Illegal Eviction for Removing Tenants from Homes
Charged with Evicting at least 10 Tenants in Systemic Scheme to Defraud;
Allegedly Put Belongings on the Street, Broke Stoves and Locked Doors
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that the owner of a company that operated three-quarter houses in Brooklyn and his employee have been arraigned on an indictment that charges them with unlawfully evicting tenants in a systemic scheme to defraud. The defendant allegedly used various tactics to evict the residents without a court order, including putting their belongings on the street, removing their mattresses, preventing them from cooking by breaking stoves and locking the doors to the residences to prevent entry.
District Attorney Thompson said, “These defendants are charged with taking advantage of vulnerable New Yorkers who were in need of assistance. They provided them with the opposite – allegedly evicting these tenants unlawfully. They have now been indicted and we intend to hold them accountable for their actions.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Yury Baumblit, 65, of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, and Edwin Elie, 42, of Canarsie, Brooklyn. They were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a nine-count indictment charging them with two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud, six counts of unlawful eviction and one count of second-degree criminal contempt. The defendants face up to four years in prison if convicted of the top count with which they are charged.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, Baumblit operated Back on Track Inc., a company that rented out three-quarter houses (also known as transitional houses or sober houses). Most tenants in his houses received shelter allowance from the New York City Human Resources Administration and others paid the landlord in cash. Elie acted as Baumblit’s right-hand man and enforced his orders at the houses he operated.
It is alleged that between April 2014 and March 16, 2016, the defendants unlawfully evicted at least 10 tenants who occupied rooms for over 30 days – even though landlords cannot evict a tenant who occupied a room or a bed for 30 consecutive days without a court order. That constituted an ongoing scheme to defraud these tenants of their property. All the tenants were directed by Baumblit to attend a substance abuse program, even when they did not have a substance abuse problem.
One victim moved to 456 Glenmore Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn in May 2014 and resided there for over a year. During that period, Baumblit or his employee locked the residence during the day, according to the investigation. In addition, the victim had allegedly observed the defendant or his employees remove mattresses belonging to tenants and destroy the stove so tenants could not cook.
Another tenant in the residence, who paid Baumblit in cash from his disability payments, was allegedly evicted after six months in the home when the defendant removed his belongings and placed another tenant in his bed. The victim sued in Tenant-Landlord Court and obtained an order directing Baumblit to return the bed to him. The defendant refused and the victim slept on the floor for more than four months.
At that same residence, yet another victim, who moved there in July 2014, had surgery in early 2015 and, subsequently, was told by Baumblit he could not stay in the home during the day and had to attend his assigned program. The victim went to the program, collapsed in the street and was hospitalized for five days, according to the indictment. That victim allegedly observed employees, including Elie, evict at least six different tenants from the residence.
Tenants at two other locations – 345 Schenck Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn, and 579 Ralph Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn – also alleged that tenants’ property was removed and left in the street or that the doors of the residence were locked during the day, effectively leading to an eviction during daytime hours.
The case was investigated by Detecitve Investigator Marvin Chalmers under the supervision of Supervising Detective Investigator Robert Addonizio and Deputy Chief Edwin Murphy. NYPD Police Officer Courney Vishawadia, of the 73rd Precinct, initially investigated the case and arrested the defendants.
Two attorneys from the New York City Law Department, William Vidal, Senior Attorney and Rachel Moston, Assistant Corporation Counsel, were prosecuting the initial summons issued to Baumblit and were cross-designated as Special Assistant District Attorneys to assist in the prosecution.
The case is being prosecuted by Felice Sontupe, Chief of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the Investigations Division, and Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.