FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Three Luna Park Housing Corp. Officials Indicted for
Conspiring to Receive Bribes, Forge Documents to Corrupt the
Process by Which Mitchell-Lama Apartments are Acquired
Defendants Include President and Treasurer of Board of Directors and Office Manager
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett, today announced that three women who controlled the process by which prospective buyers applied for high demand cooperative apartments at the Luna Park Housing Corporation, a Mitchell-Lama complex in Coney Island, have been named in a 78-count indictment in which they are charged with conspiracy, grand larceny, forgery and other charges, including accepting approximately $874,000 in bribes to get apartments for ineligible applicants.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly conspired to corrupt the process by which eligible prospective tenants could have access to affordable housing in Brooklyn, and then used their illegal proceeds to fund lavish lifestyles. Their alleged greed cheated people who were entitled to apartments that instead went to those willing to pay bribes. My office, working with our law enforcement partners, will continue to root out fraud and corruption to ensure that New York’s scarce affordable housing opportunities are not corrupted by fraudsters trying to make a profit, but distributed fairly and honestly.”
Commissioner Garnett said, “Protecting affordable housing in New York City is not just about building more units but also preserving fair access to the ones we have. These defendants undercut that effort by manipulating the rules on access to affordable housing apartments in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, according to the indictment. The corruption vulnerabilities DOI found during this investigation are being addressed with the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which has already begun strengthening its oversight of City-supervised Mitchell-Lama developments. DOI thanks the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for their partnership and commitment in this important investigation.”
Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, Northeast Region, said, “All around us, we see that the nation is in the grips of an affordable housing crisis. The arrests and charges announced today send an important message that this office has no tolerance for those who would undermine the administration and management of the precious few affordable housing units available for our citizens. The defendants’ alleged actions were designed to enrich themselves at the expense of New Yorkers who were denied fair access to affordable housing. HUD OIG commends the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for its committed and steadfast efforts in bringing this case forward.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Anna Treybich, 71, Irina Zeltser, 66, and Karina Andriyan, 38, all of Coney Island. They will be arraigned today on a 78-count indictment in which they are charged with fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy, second-degree grand larceny, second-degree forgery first-degree falsifying business records, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and first-degree commercial bribe receiving.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, between January 1, 2013 and May 6, 2019, the defendants conspired to steal and sell the right to purchase apartments at Luna Park Housing Corporation. Luna Park is a Mitchell-Lama property in Coney Island built and operated with public funds to provide affordable cooperative housing for working families. It is a five-building complex consisting of studio, one, two, and three-bedroom apartments housing approximately 6,000 people.
Applicants for Luna Park fell into three categories: internal applicants seeking to move from one apartment into another apartment; external applicants who had no prior ownership or occupancy at Luna Park; and succession applicants who lived with owners and sought successor ownership rights. Internal and external application waiting lists were supposed to be maintained in the order in which they were received.
Treybich and Zeltser were members of the Board of Directors of Luna Park, serving, respectively, as president and treasurer. Andriyan was the office manager of the Luna Park management office, and was tasked with maintaining all waiting lists approved by the New York City Housing Preservation and Development Corporation for all applications for apartments and processing the applications. Anyone seeking to purchase an apartment had to submit various supporting documents including income verification, and in the case of successor applicants, birth and marriage certificates and other documents proving that the applicant lived in the apartment for at least two years and had a familial relationship with the occupant who relinquished the apartment.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, Luna Park’s apartments were sold at prices significantly below market value and therefore were in high demand. The defendants allegedly abused their positions at Luna Park by accepting bribes in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $120,000 from applicants for apartments in Luna Park. In exchange for the bribes, the defendants allegedly prepared and submitted to HPD for approval false, forged and fraudulent documents, giving those who paid the bribes priority over otherwise eligible applicants. The defendants allegedly collected a total of $874,000 in cash bribes, involving the transfer of 18 apartments, over the course of the scheme, for which they were indicted. The fair market value of the 18 apartments was approximately $5 million in total.
It is alleged that the defendants identified applicants willing to pay cash bribes through word of mouth or by relying on people to recruit applicants willing to pay cash bribes.
It is alleged that, because HPD relied on the applicant screening and application review conducted by the Luna Park management office and routinely approved all applications submitted by the management office, the defendants deceived HPD into approving the applications of bribe-paying applicants by creating false, forged and fraudulent applications and supporting documents and submitting them to HPD for final approval.
Examples of the scheme are as follow:
- On January 1, 2013, it is alleged, Zeltser solicited a cash bribe of $93,000 to help a person identified as Witness 4 purchase a three-bedroom apartment. The witness allegedly paid the defendant $10,000 every two weeks until it was paid in full by April 2014. In exchange, the defendant provided Witness 4 a pre-filled out Luna Park income affidavit and told her that in order to purchase the apartment as a successor tenant she would have to say that the tenant of record was her sister. HPD approved the application after it was provided with forged and fraudulent documents from the defendants. For example, the person giving up the apartment had a birth certificate with her mother’s name listed as Ida and her identity as Jewish. To reflect that they were sisters and had the same mother, the defendants allegedly altered the purchaser’s birth certificate to reflect that her mother’s name was Ida and her identity was Jewish, even though on the real birth certificate, the purchaser’s mother’s name is Ekaterina and she is listed as Ukrainian.
- Between March 1 and March 16, 2015, Treybich allegedly solicited a $26,000 cash payment from a person identified as Witness 13 in exchange for helping Witness 13 purchase a three-bedroom apartment in Luna Park. Witness 13 provided Treybich with a birth certificate, a marriage certificate and a passport. Treybich allegedly altered the documents, as well as income affidavits, to reflect that the purchaser and tenant of record were brother and sister and had both lived in the apartment for at least two years.
Finally, during the execution of search warrants at the homes or storage units of the defendants, investigators recovered dozens of fur coats, designer handbags and jewelry. It is alleged that the defendants also used the cash bribes to purchase real estate, including apartments in Florida.
The District Attorney thanked HUD for its assistance in the investigation.
The case was investigated by DOI, specifically Assistant Inspector General Maria Horvat, under the supervision of Deputy Inspector General Michael Antolini, Senior Inspector General Jessica Heegan, Associate Commissioner Jay Flaherty, Deputy Commissioner / Chief of Investigations Dominick Zarrella and First Deputy Commissioner Daniel Cort, with assistance from DOI’s NYPD Squad of Detectives.
The District Attorney thanked KCDA Detective Investigators assigned to the Investigations Bureau for their assistance in this case, as well as KCDA Financial Investigator Ludwig Sanchez, of the Asset Forfeiture and Crimes Against Revenue Bureau; and Investigative Analyst Megan Carroll and Paralegal Zachary Gitman of the Investigations Division
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Vivian Young Joo, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau and Senior Assistant District Attorney Theresa Robitaille, of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Christopher Blank, Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt
Note: Materials presented during the press conference are available here.