Three officials responsible for the application process for purchasing Mitchell Lama co-ops in Coney Island were indicted for allegedly accepting bribes from applicants who wanted to buy into affordable housing
The 78-count indictment was announced Tuesday May 21 by the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in a press release. Among the charges were grand larceny, conspiracy and forgery.
The three officials for the Luna Park Housing Corporation, a Mitchell-Lama complex, are accused of collecting $874,000 in bribes from ineligible applicants in a scheme that involved 18 apartments.
The defendants were identified by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office as Anna Treybich, Irina Zeltser and Karina Andriyan, all from Coney Island. They were scheduled to be arraigned this past Tuesday.
“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,” said Gonzalez in a statement “Their alleged greed cheated people who were entitled to apartments that instead went to those willing to pay bribes.”
The indictment stated that between 2013 and 2016, the three defendants conspired “to steal and sell the rights to purchase” the Luna Park apartments that were originally intended for working families to buy affordable cooperative housing. The fair market value for the 18 apartments involved in the transactions was $5 million.
NBC New York reported that the wait list for a Luna Park studio apartment was 585, while for a one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment varied from 3,806 to 9,799, according to city records.
The district attorney's office said that Treybich, Zeltser and Andriyan allegedly abused their positions by accepting bribes ranging between $10,000 and $120,000 from the applicants. At the time, Treybich, Zeltser and Andriyan were serving as Luna Park's president, treasurer and office manager respectively.
In exchange for bribes, the three allegedly prepared and sent in falsified documents that favored the ineligible applicants to the New York City Housing Preservation and Development Department for final approval.
“All around us, we see that the nation is in the grips of an affordable housing crisis,” said Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, Northeast Region, said in a statement “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.”
The district attorney's office added that the defendants allegedly found applicants willing to pay the bribes through either recruitment or word of mouth. The office also said that authorities who searched the accused's homes found fur coats, jewelry and designer handbags. The defendants allegedly used the money to buy real estate that included homes in Florida.
According to Crain's New York Business, Gonzalez said that the Brooklyn District Attorney's office may consider removing those shareholders from the apartments involved in the alleged scheme. NBC New York reported that information on the defendants' attorneys was not available at the time. Metro Management, which is Luna Park's management company, did not respond to a request for comment.
David Chiu is an associate editor at The Cooperator.