Midwood contractor charged with collecting $700k for work he didn’t do

August 14, 2019 Kelly Mena
Brooklyn Supreme Court. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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A construction contractor is accused of stealing more than $700,000 from a Midwood couple by charging for work he never did, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced Tuesday.

The 55-count indictment filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court charged Steven Crystal, the owner of House Doctor LLC, with larceny and forgery in an alleged fraud scheme that involved billing a local Brooklyn couple for work related to a series of home repairs, claiming additional costs to cut through bureaucratic red tape that didn’t exist.

According to the indictment, between December 2012 and February 2018 Crystal devised a series of schemes that involved expanding the scope of his initial minor home repairs to large-scale renovation projects and unnecessary work — a basement renovation and a balcony and roof construction project, for example — in order to extract large sums of money from the couple.

Crystal sought money to pay for environmental reviews, architectural designs, construction permits and other unnecessary construction jobs, using forged government emails to show the necessity of the funds, according to the indictment.

Though he collected more than $700,000 from the couple, Crystal’s accounts showed only $9,000 in expenses on building materials. He made some cosmetic repairs, but little to no work was done on the majority of the projects for which billed.

He visibly altered and re-deposited checks multiple times into his accounts, according to the DA’s Office.

The scheme allegedly netted Crystal thousands of dollars that went toward funding a lavish lifestyle: $38,000 spent at Coach, Diane von Furstenburg, Oscar de la Renta, Burberry and other luxury retailers and $6,000 on flights and frequent dinners at Tao and the Russian Tea Room, according to a forensic analysis of the defendant’s bank records from the DA’s Office.

Crystal was arraigned on Tuesday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun and charged with second-, third-, and fourth-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. He was ordered held on bail of $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash and to return to court on Oct. 29, 2019, according to the DA’s Office.

“This defendant allegedly engaged in a lengthy and brazen scheme that took advantage of homeowners who put their trust in him,” said Gonzalez in a public statement. “We will continue to investigate fraud and corruption in the construction industry and to seek justice for those who are victimized by unscrupulous or dishonest contractors.”

Correction (4:30 p.m.) — In the second reference within the story to the amount of money Crystal allegedly collected, there was a typo. It originally read $7,000; it is actually $700,000. 

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