By Carlotta Mohamed
A Queens County HVAC business owner has been charged with attempted assault and endangering public health after allegedly placing mercury in the air-conditioning units of a Jamaica Estates home, causing the family to become sick, the Queens district attorney said.
The family had repeatedly complained to the owner of the company that had worked on their air-conditioning system that the second-floor unit had problems.
The family of three – the parents and their son – tested positive for mercury levels above acceptable norms. All three victims complained of various symptoms associated with mercury poisoning, including joint pain, headaches and lethargy, according to DA Richard Brown.
“The defendant allegedly had a final fix for the complainers and is alleged to have placed poisonous mercury in the new AC,” Brown said. “Exposure to the element could prove fatal over time and did make the residents sick. Fortunately, a family member spotted the chemical commonly referred to as quicksilver and alerted police.”
The defendant, Yuriy Kruk, 48, of Alderton Street in Rego Park was arraigned May 30. He appeared before acting Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Kron on a six-count indictment charging him with attempted assault as well as endangering public health, safety or the environment, according to Brown.
Kron set bail at $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash and ordered the defendant to return to court July 30. If convicted, Kruk faces up to five to 15 years in prison.
The victim, Roman Pinkhasov, hired A+ HAVAC and Kitchen Corporation — owned and operated by Kruk– to do heating, ventilation and air-conditioning work in his home. Pinkhasov persistently complained that the AC unit on the second floor was not working properly. In the summer of 2015, Kruk told the homeowner that the system could not be repaired and would need to be replaced and installed a new unit in July 2015, Brown said.
After the installation, Pinkhasov’s wife, Olga Yurgaueva, found drops of a silver substance on the floor. In August 2015, Pinkhasov also discovered several more drops of the silver material in the vents where the defendant had been working in the house. The family called 911. Members of the city Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Unit responded and recovered additional mercury from the first floor vent and other parts of the AC units on both floors, Brown said.
“Every New Yorker should feel secure about the people they hire to work in their homes,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commission Basil Seggos. who joined Brown in publicizing the case.
“In this case, the victims were merely asking for a repair of their heating and air0conditioning units, but instead found themselves fighting for their lives. If not for the persistence of these victims and the investigative work of our DEC investigators and the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the mystery surrounding these victims’ ailments and the criminal conduct outlined in this indictment may never have come to light.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha