Handbags for housing: Coney Island women accused of bribery scam
The trio allegedly bought designer bags, furs and Florida apartments in exchange for fudging the waitlist.
Three women who ran an affordable housing complex in Coney Island were arrested Tuesday for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to help unqualified applicants land highly sought-after real estate, authorities announced.
Anna Treybich, the former president of the board of the Luna Park Housing Corporation — an affordable housing complex in Coney Island — will be arraigned Tuesday afternoon on a 78-count indictment along with Irina Seltser, another former board member, as well as Karina Andriyan, the former office manager for the complex. The three women accepted around $874,000 in bribes to help people get apartments they were not eligible for, according to the district attorney.
The women are accused of using the bribe money to fund their luxe lifestyles, buying designer handbags and shoes, fur coats, jewelry and apartments in Florida.
“This case exposed a pervasive pattern of corruption and bribery in deciding who received an affordable apartment,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “This case is also about working class families being deprived of the affordable housing that they’ve been waiting for, being victimized by the very people entrusted with regulating and managing the availability of this very limited housing stock.”
The Luna Park Housing Corp. is a Mitchell-Lama complex that houses about 6,000 people. Mitchell-Lama buildings —affordable co-ops for moderate and middle-income families — have notoriously long wait-lists.
From 2013 up until this month, the trio provided “false, forged and fraudulent” documents to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for applicants who paid them bribes between $10,000 and $120,000, according to the DA and the Department of Investigation.
“They used these apartments as their personal piggy bank, creating and providing forged documents to support false claims to these units, in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes,” said Margaret Garnett, commissioner of DOI.
As part of the scheme, Treybich, Seltser and Andriyan allegedly forged marriage and birth certificates.
In one case, they helped an applicant jump to the top of the waitlist by forging a “bogus application” claiming the applicant was related to someone who had gotten on the waitlist in 1992, Garnett said. Applicants are allowed to give up their waitlist spot to relatives, according to Mitchell-Lama’s rules.
The women allegedly took bribes for at least 18 apartments in the Luna Park buildings.
Gonzalez told the Brooklyn Eagle he believes that more people are currently living in Luna Park apartments who got their co-ops through bribes.
“We would have to be naïve to think these were the only apartments in Luna Park that were awarded through bribery. In fact, we actually believe that this was the norm, not the exception,” Gonzalez said. “Residents told us it’s an open secret that this scheme had been taking place for many years.”
“Honestly, they haven’t unsealed the indictment so we have no idea what they’re alleging she did,” Michael Treybich told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The women each face five to 15 years in prison if convicted. Gonzalez said the investigation is ongoing.
Follow reporter Noah Goldberg on Twitter.
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