Three Brooklyn women at the helm of a Coney Island affordable-housing development pocketed more than $870,000 in bribes by fraudulently fast-tracking wealthy home-buyers into high-demand units meant for low-income families that needed them, officials said Tuesday.
Anna Treybich, Irina Zeltser and Karina Andriyan now face a 78-count indictment for the scam they ran from January 2013 through this month at the taxpayer-subsidized Luna Park complex, funding their luxurious tastes, officials said.
“Corrupt insiders got cash bribes, applicants got the apartment they wanted without having to wait, and honest families were left out in the cold,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said.
He was surrounded by a sampling of the trio’s alleged ill-gotten finery, including bags, shoes and jewelry bearing the names Chanel, Fendi and Cartier — and a rack of fur coats.
Playing gatekeeper in their respective roles as president, treasurer and office manager of the Luna Park Housing Corp., Treybich, Zeltser and Andriyan wormed well-heeled tenants into 18 apartments at the five-building, 6,000-resident Mitchell-Lama complex in exchange for cash bribes as large as $120,000, prosecutors said.
In nearly all of the cases, they did so by doctoring applicants’ documents to claim that they were relatives of outgoing tenants, allowing them to cut ahead of non-connected applicants, some of whom had seen their names sit on waiting lists for decades, authorities charge.
Otherwise, Mitchell-Lama hopefuls coming in cold without relatives are processed on a first-come-first-served basis.
As of Tuesday, the waiting list for Luna Park included 585 applicants for studios, 3,806 for one-bedrooms and more than 9,700 each for two- and three-bedrooms, according to public records.
The trio allegedly capitalized on the desperation of cash-rich apartment-seekers who they learned about through word of mouth or recruiters, soliciting bribes to help them game the Mitchell-Lama program’s stringent screening process meant to give low- and middle-class New Yorkers a crack at below-market-rate apartments.
In one case, Zeltser solicited a $93,000 cash bribe — paid in bi-weekly, $10,000 installments — to get one applicant into a three-bedroom unit about to open up, prosecutors said.
Knowing that the outgoing tenant’s birth certificate listed her mother’s name as “Ida” and her identity as “Jewish,” the fraudsters edited the same information onto the prospective purchaser’s birth certificate so they could pass as sisters, authorities said.
In another case, Treybich took $26,000 to alter documents to claim that the outgoing and incoming tenants were siblings and had already shared the apartment for years, officials said.
All told, the group is charged with essentially selling access to 18 units with a cumulative market-rate value of approximately $5 million, authorities said.
In addition to all the displayed swag that the housing honchos netted, Treybich owned two “valuable, ocean-front condos” in Florida, while Zeltser owned one.
The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development is reviewing the documents of those who paid the bribes to decide whether they can stay or will be evicted, Gonzalez said.
Treybich, 71, Zeltser, 66, and Andriyan, 38, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges including grand larceny and forgery. If convicted, they each face 5 to 15 years in prison.
Each posted $50,000 cash bail and declined to comment through their respective lawyers.
“We would have to be naive to think that these were the only apartments in Luna Park that were awarded through bribery,” Gonzalez said. “In fact, we actually believe that this was the norm, not the exception.”
The alleged graft infuriated Luna Park residents.
“To think that another deserving, would-be tenant isn’t getting their apartment because someone with extra cash was able to pull it out from under him really disgusts me,” Robert Allen, 54, said.