Manhattan DA Tags Landlord, Contractor With Criminal Charges, $3 Million Civil Forfeiture Suit For Allegedly Creating Life-Threatening Conditions To Bully Couple With Five Young Kids Out Of Their Rent-Stabilized Apartment
- A landlord and two contractors intentionally created "life-threatening" conditions at an East Harlem apartment to push a couple and their five young children out of their rent-stabilized home, prosecutors say.
The landlord and East 115th Street building owner, Ephraim Vashovsky, along with property manager and contractor Adam Cohen, 32, and contractor Shaoul Ohana, 56, allegedly made conditions perilous and unlivable for the parents and their children, who range in age from 1 to 12, including leaving them without water and heat and the building at risk of structural collapse.
According to an indictment , the trio conducted ongoing illegal construction and renovation at the apartment, and harassed and intimidated the family, threatening to report their status as undocumented immigrants, in a conspiratorial effort to get them to leave or pay more.
"These defendants are charged with turning an East Harlem apartment building into a death trap,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. “They forced a family with five young children to endure life-threatening conditions on some of winter’s coldest nights. As demolition continued around apartment 5E, the entire building was at risk of a devastating fire, or worse, collapse."
The alleged concerted effort against the family began shortly after Vashovsky acquired the building in May 2014, according to court documents. Vashovsky and his associates wanted the family out so they could make renovations to the building that would allow the units to command higher rents, court papers say. Amid pending eviction proceedings and litigation, the defendants moved to begin construction while the family still inhabited the apartment.
In an effort to expedite the Department of Buildings work permit applications submitted by Ohana, Cohen allegedly submitted falsified documents purporting that the building was unoccupied, while the defendants simultaneously moved for the family’s eviction in housing court on the grounds that the apartment was overcrowded, court documents say. Based on the falsified filings, DOB approved a work permit in December 2014.
***The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit has filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against the indicted defendants and their companies, seeking the forfeiture of more than $3 million in connection with the criminal case.
Go here for the Manhattan District Attorney press release.