Swindled Deposits For Illegal Units
An Astoria landlord who allegedly ignored an order to vacate his premises has been charged with taking tens of thousands of dollars from prospective tenants for uninhabitable apartments-and in one case renting out the same apartment to four different tenants for the same time period.
The landlord was identified by Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown as Hinyoung Limtung, 55, of 30th Road in Astoria, who was arrested last Thursday, Apr. 11, and charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, third-degree grand larceny and second-, third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, Limtung faces up to 15 years in prison.
The charges against Limtung were announced by Brown, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, De- partment of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn and Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Robert LiMandri.
“This case sadly represents another instance in which an allegedly greedy landlord is accused of creating dangerous living conditions for tenants and, additionally, taking thousands of dollars from tenants as rental pre-payments for apartments that were uninhabitable and/or unavailable,” Brown said. “[Limtung] was ordered to vacate the premises last December, but allegedly ignored that order-endangering his tenants and first responders-and now must face the consequences of his actions.”
“The owner repeatedly endangered and defrauded his tenants and thumbed his nose at the city’s orders to enforce basic safety standards in his illegally subdivided building, according to the charges,” Hearn added. “We’re now coordinating a criminal investigation with other remedies to address the hazards and hardships he has created for his community. DOI is pleased to join District Attorney Brown and Commissioner LiMandri to reinforce the point that we will not tolerate lawlessness by anyone who would exploit the strong demand for affordable housing in Queens.”
“Property owners who create illegal dwellings are gambling with people’s lives, and they must be held accountable,” LiMandri said. “This arrest clearly demonstrates that the Department of Buildings, along with the Queens District Attorney and the Department of Investigation, are increasing the pressure on property owners who are making a profit by endangering the lives of their tenants. Illegal conversions pose a serious threat to the safety of New Yorkers, and we are doing more than ever to combat the dangers associated with illegal construction.”
Brown said that the matter was brought to the attention of his office by several of the tenants at 31-70 Crescent St.- a property owned by Limtung-complaining about the alleged egregious conditions at their building. The District Attorney’s Office commenced an investigation with the NYPD and thereafter learned that the city’s Department of Buildings and Department of Investigation were conducting a simultaneous probe. The two investigations were then joined.
In December 2012, the Department of Buildings issued a vacate order to Limtung after determining that the two-family building had been converted into a five-family building with no permit or certificate of occupancy issued for the conversion, that the first and second floor had no secondary means of egress, and that the building had no sprinkler system.
Upon returning to the premises on Feb. 19, the DOB investigator discovered that the property had been converted into a nine-family dwelling despite the existing vacate order and that there were multiple individuals allegedly living at the premises in violation of the vacate order.
According to the criminal complaint, on Jan. 23, a woman signed a lease with Limtung to rent an apartment for $1,000 a month. She allegedly paid him $3,000 in advance and was supposed to move in on Mar. 1. Limtung allegedly failed to tell her about the vacate order and she was subsequently unable to move into the apartment.
Additionally, in January 2013, according to the criminal complaint, a man signed a lease to rent apartment S2 at the location for $800 a month and paid Limtung $10,400 in advance, representing 12 months rent and one month’s security deposit. The man subsequently agreed to move into an apartment at the location and did so on Jan. 18. However, he was later informed of the vacate order by Department of Buildings investigators and ordered to move out on Mar. 8.
According to the criminal complaint, in February 2013, a second man signed a lease to rent an apartment and paid Limtung $3,700. Because of the vacate order the complainant was unable to move into the apartment.
Furthermore, according to the criminal complaint, a third man gave Limtung $5,400 in advance as rent for a studio apartment at the rate of $700 a month in December 2012 without being told by the defendant about the vacate order. The third male tenant subsequently moved into a studio apartment at the location but was later forced to move out because of the vacate order.
In all four instances, Limtung allegedly did not return the deposit to each of the four tenants.
Finally, according to the criminal complaint, four complaintants each unwittingly signed a lease to rent out the same apartment for the same time period as each other, and each allegedly gave Limtung large sums of money to secure the apartment and that money was not returned to the complainants even though they were unable to live in the apartment.
That apartment, in addition to being unavailable, was uninhabitable as it had no bathroom or kitchen, authorities noted.
The investigation was conducted by Det. David Gilbert of the NYPD’s Queens District Attorney’s Squad, under the supervision of Sgt. Frank Teran, Lt. Keith Gallagher and Capt. John Zanfardino, and the overall supervision of Chief James G. Molloy, and Chief of Detectives Phil T. Pulaski, and by Chief Investigator James McElligott and Special Investigator Faye Stephan of the New York City Department of Investigation, and investigators from the Department of Buildings.
Assistant District Attorney Eleonora B. Rivkin of the District Attorney’s Economic and Environmental Crimes Bureau is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gregory C. Pavlides, bureau chief, and Christina Hanophy, deputy bureau chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Linda M. Cantoni.
It was noted that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.