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Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

An Elmhurst man is facing charges after he allegedly turned four houses and three garages into illegal single-room dwellings, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

Segundo Chimbay, 48, of 94th Street near 49th Avenue, had multiple search warrants served on him through Operation Safe Buildings, an initiative involving several agencies to stop illegal and dangerous housing in Queens, before he was arrested March 26, the DA said. The 46 people, including 12 children, living in Chimbay’s buildings were relocated by the Red Cross due to the potential danger posed by the altered dwellings, the DA said.

“Illegal conversions endanger the lives of building residents as well as firefighters and other personnel who in responding to an emergency are confronted by a maze of rooms with no way out,” District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

Chimbay was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court March 27 before Judge Donna Golia on charges of scheme to defraud, reckless endangerment and failing to comply with vacate orders, the DA said. If found guilty, he faces a prison sentence of up to seven years, Brown said.

Between 2007 and 2012, Chimbay allegedly converted a two-family home at 48-14 94th St. in Elmhurst, a two-family home at 35-39 92nd St. in Jackson Heights, another two-family home at 35-41 92nd St. in Jackson Heights and a one-family home at 40-33 Forley St. in Elmhurst into one-room apartments, the DA said. He is also charged with converting the cellars and garages in these places into apartments, the DA said. The 46 tenants allegedly paid $850 to $1,400 a month to live there, the DA said.

Chimbay received multiple vacate orders, but continued to rent the apartments, the DA said. The city Department of Building’s Quality of Life and Queens Borough Enforcement units eventually brought the matter to Brown, resulting in Chimbay’s arrest, the DA said.

He is being asked to forfeit $1.6 million, which includes more than $600,000 in fines due to alleged failure to comply with vacate orders, the DA said. Liens have been placed against the Elmhurst and Jackson Heights homes, the DA said.

Chimbay has been held on a $10,000 bail and his next court date is April 10, the DA said.

“Illegal conversions can kill, and this arrest sends a clear message that property owners who create these dangerous living conditions will face serious consequences,” Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said in a statement.

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