City building inspector from Queens charged with fraud in large construction scheme

Queens residents were charged in a large construction fraud scheme.
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Several Queens residents in the construction industry, including an inspector with the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB), were charged in a 14-person scheme to commit inspection fraud and illegal plumbing work.

Mark G. Peters, commissioner of the Department of Investigation (DOI), and acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced the charges on Oct. 25.

Though most of the defendants charged were from Brooklyn, five defendants reside in Queens. According to the criminal complaints, Hiram Beza, 55, of Queens used his position as a DOB inspector to collect cash payoffs.

Beza issued positive construction inspections to several property owners and managers in exchange for cash. He also received free home renovations, including the construction of a new kitchen in his home. Beza has been employed by the DOB since April 2005 and has an annual salary of $68,672.

He was charged with third-degree bribe receiving, official misconduct and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

Several Queens property managers and developers were also charged for giving him bribes including Ruben Badalov, 36, Yakhiel Firgiyev, 31, and Matan Hacohen, 37, of Bellerose.

Badalov and Hacohen were charged with third-degree bribery while Hacohen was additionally charged with giving unlawful gratuities. Firgiyev was charged with giving unlawful gratuities and second-degree rewarding official misconduct.

After these charges, DOB re-inspected the Brooklyn properties and issued violations where necessary.

Licensed master plumber Henry Samuels, 58, of Rosedale was also charged in the scheme. Samuels filed fraudulent permits to allow unlicensed people to work on properties in exchange for $1,500 and $2,500 for each permit.

Under city code, Samuels had to supervise the work at each property but did not do so. The city went back to dozens of properties where Samuels issued permits and filed stop work orders where necessary.

Samuels was arrested for first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and will face four years in jail if convicted.

“These investigations are a testament to our continuing commitment to keep people safe as developers too often are willing to take shortcuts at the risk of public safety to rapidly get their properties to market,” Gonzalez said. “These cases are all the more disturbing because city employees who are charged with making sure buildings are up to code were willing to overlook violations in exchange for cash and gifts. I look forward to continuing to work with DOI and will not let anybody sell the safety of the people of Brooklyn for their own profit.”

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