Security deposits for illegal flats stolen in Astoria

Security deposits for illegal flats stolen in Astoria
Photo by Karen Frantz
By Karen Frantz

A Queens landlord who allegedly converted a two-family home in Astoria into several illegal apartments and made off with tens of thousands of dollars in security deposits and advance rent from tenants was charged with several crimes, the Queens district attorney said last week.

“This case sadly represents another instance in which an allegedly greedy landlord is accused of creating dangerous living conditions for tenants,” DA Richard Brown said. “The defendant 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.”

According to Brown, Hinyoung Limtung, 55, of Astoria, converted his building, at 31-70 Crescent St., into several apartments without a permit. In addition to the conversion, the building was in an unsafe condition, without a sprinkler system or a second exit on the first or second floor, the DA said.

City Department of Building inspectors issued a vacate order after they discovered the building had been converted into five apartments in December 2012, Brown said, but when DOB inspectors returned a few months later, they found the building was then converted into nine apartments and that several people were living in those units despite the vacate order.

Limtung also allegedly leased the apartments to eight people after the vacate order had been issued, with some of those tenants forced to move out shortly after moving in and others not able to move in at all due to the order, Brown said.

Four of the tenants had unknowingly signed leases for the same apartment at the same time — an apartment that had no kitchen or bathroom, Brown said.

Limtung allegedly did not return any of the tenants’ security deposits or advance rent, which in one case was more than $10,000 for an entire year, the DA said.

The landlord was charged with scheme to defraud, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The DA’s office along with the DOB and the city Department of Investigation were involved in the investigation.

Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said the arrest demonstrates the department’s increasing pressure on property owners who illegally convert buildings.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.