NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With the construction boom in New York has come a rise in cases in fraud and corruption.
As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, 14 people were arrested on charges stemming from separate corruption schemes in Brooklyn Wednesday.
“One of the defendants Alex Kogan, who was the asbestos inspector took bribes to fudge asbestos reports and to ensure that any samples came back negative,” acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said.
As they listened in on wiretaps for another case, investigators were led down a daisy chain of bribery and corruption. They heard Kogan on the phone with a landlord.
He asked for “clean papers” that would say there was no asbestos.
“Yes you can,” the inspector is head saying. “I just don’t want to talk over the phone.”
After playing back the recording, city Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said, “I’ve never fully figured out why people say, ‘Let’s not talk about it over the phone,’ and then talk about it on the phone.”
Kogan, 60, allegedly charged $1,00 to $3,500 to generate fraudulent asbestos reports to property managers and developers.
Peters said Kogan would take money and then go to Home depot and buy brand new sheet rock to submit for the asbestos test.
“It risks the safety of the workers and the public who may be exposed to it,” Peters said.
Charged along with Kogan were Yoel Roth, 32, who authorities said worked to refer property owners to Kogan through Roth’s demolition company, Presco. Roth allegedly took cuts of the proceeds from the scheme by inflating Kogan’s investigation costs to property owners.
Property managers and developers Lawrence Berlianshik, 27, and Yehuda Unger, 36, were also charged in the asbestos case.
The wiretaps also led to building inspectors taking bribes to approve permits. Authorities said city Department of Buildings inspector Hiram Beza, 55, issued favorable construction inspections to various property owners and managers in exchange for cash and various renovations to his own house – including a new kitchen.
Another city construction inspector, Dean Mulzac, was accused of taking free jewelry from a property manager who also owned a jewelry store, in exchange for passing the property manager’s inspection.
Property managers Ruben Badalov, 36; Yoel Blum, 35; Zev Chaskelson, 44; Yakhiel Firgiyev, 31; Matan Hacochen, 37; and Amritpal Sandhu, 49, were also charged in the case.
In a third case, a licensed plumber allegedly took cash while others did the work. Henry Samuels, 58, allegedly filed fraudulent permits with the city allowing unlicensed people to work on properties, and got a fee of $1,500 to $2,500 per permit.
When asked if he thought such acts are widespread, Peters simply said, “Yes.”