Allegedly Made Fraudulent Misrepresentations About Permits and Other Required Expenses; Spent Money on Travel, Fine Dining, Luxury Apparel & More
By: David Ben Hooren
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Tuesday that a Brooklyn contractor has been charged in a 55-count indictment with larceny and forgery for allegedly stealing over $700,000 from a Midwood couple by charging them for a large-scale home renovation project but performing little to no work.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly engaged in a lengthy and brazen scheme that took advantage of homeowners who put their trust in him. 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.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Steven Crystal, 45, of Midwood, Brooklyn, who is the owner of House Doctor LLC. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 55-count indictment in which he is 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 October 29, 2019.
The District Attorney said that between December 2012 and February 2018, the defendant allegedly devised a series of schemes to defraud a Midwood couple who hired him to perform minor repairs to their home. The scope of work soon expanded to include the following projects: excavation and renovation of the basement in order to create a medical office for the male victim’s practice; building a six-story extension to the two-story home with a parapet wall; construction of an enclosed balcony with a retractable roof; repair of various leaks from the old roof; installation of an elevator; and installation of new gas and water lines.
The investigation found that the victims wrote over 300 checks to the defendant, based upon various fraudulent misrepresentations regarding the construction and renovation of their home. For instance: the defendant allegedly asked for money to pay for environmental reviews, architectural designs, construction permits and much more. To bolster the scheme, the defendant allegedly sent emails purportedly from government and other entities to show the necessity of the funds and presented the victims with other requests for fees that were actual forgeries. Furthermore, multiple checks written to the defendant by the victims were visibly altered and re-deposited multiple times into his accounts, the investigation found.
As a result of these multifaceted schemes, the victims lost over $700,000 in total.
A forensic analysis of the defendant’s bank records indicated that, unbeknownst to the victims, he utilized all of the funds for his own personal gain, including: $225,000 in ATM withdrawals; over $38,000 in purchases from Coach, Diane von Furstenburg, Oscar de la Renta, Burberry and other luxury retailers; $6,000 on flights; dinners at Tao, the Russian Tea Room and other restaurants; and more.
There were no debits on his accounts from the NYC Department of Buildings, the NYC Board of Standards & Appeals, the NYC Department of Transportation or the Department of Environmental Protection, nor were any permits issued by any of these agencies. In addition, there were no debits against his accounts for the various vendors and subcontractors that he represented were working on the numerous projects on the property. There were only $9,000 in expenses on building materials. While the defendant initially made some cosmetic repairs, little to no work was performed on the property.
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