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Photo by Mark Hallum
The Queens district attorney establishes a new Housing and Worker Protection Bureau to crackdown on scammers and other bad actors.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the creation of the new Housing and Worker Protection Bureau which will focus on investigating and prosecuting crimes related to homeownership, predatory lending, wage theft and workplace safety.

This newly established crime-fighting bureau will work collaboratively with other agencies and across disciplines to bring the full power of the district attorney’s office into play to identify and hold those who victimize the Queens community accountable.

“Far too often, people are swindled into giving away their property,” Katz said. “Unscrupulous criminals often target elderly or vulnerable people in real estate scams convincing them to sign on a dotted line that literally gives away their home. This new Bureau will investigate those crimes.”

In many instances, education is the key to combating these kinds of cons, Katz explained. The Housing and Worker Protection Bureau will focus on prosecuting these crimes while also educating the community on how to avoid being the victims of charlatans who use manipulation to take advantage of people in an effort to line their own pockets

“The Housing and Worker Protection Bureau will also go after crimes related to dangerous construction sites that put workers in harm’s way and employers who fail to pay the prevailing wage and other schemes,” Katz said.

The bureau will pursue contractors who take money-saving shortcuts at the expense of worker safety, employers who skim wages from their employees, and those who fail to pay the prevailing wage. And when appropriate, this Bureau will enforce construction codes and the penal law to ensure that those in power are held accountable for any wrongdoing.

In addition, the Housing and Worker Protection Bureau will work with outside agencies, unions and employers to inform workers in the construction trades about their rights and responsibilities. This will help ensure that employees are informed and aware of safety measures that should be in place at worksites and will be able to recognize when their pocket is being picked, according to Katz.

She appointed William Jorgenson to lead the unit. A career prosecutor, Jorgenson has worked in multiple agencies in and around the New York City area with more than three decades of experience in law enforcement.

Jorgenson has handled homicide and narcotics trials, conducted long-term investigations into insurance fraud, public corruption and other financial crimes. He also has a wealth of experience leading and training attorneys and support staff.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a housing scam or believes an employer is not providing a safe workplace or suspect another scheme related to a construction site or unfair wages, call the Queens district attorney’s office at 718-286-6673.

Katz also announced her support for a bill that would repeal the crime of loitering for the purpose of prostitution from the New York State Penal Law. Since taking office in January, the district attorney has not charged or convicted a single individual for the crime of loitering for the purposes of prostitution and until the law is repealed she will decline to prosecute anyone arrested on that charge in Queens.

“This decision was made after careful consideration, which included an analysis of historical data that demonstrated enforcement of this statute often used to arrest and harass people based on their gender or appearance and adversely impacted already marginalized members of our community,” Katz said. “Our objective is not to penalize people who are being victimized or commercially exploited sexually, but rather to connect them to meaningful services, support, and tools to enable them to safely exit the sex trade industry.”

The DA’s office is committed to combatting human trafficking and victims of sex trafficking will not face charges in Queens, Katz reiterated adding that those responsible for forcing victims into the sex trade industry will be held responsible and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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