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Read the original article at NY Daily News.
Notorious landlord Steve Croman was hit Monday with a 20-count indictment and a civil suit related to his long-running campaign to harass rent-stabilized tenants into fleeing so he can jack up the rent.
Croman, who owns 140 apartment buildings across Manhattan, has long been the target of a criminal probe by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
A grand jury indicted Croman and his mortgage broker, Barry Swartz, on multiple felonies charging they lied about rental income to get more than $45 million in favorable mortgages.
The civil lawsuit alleges Croman routinely used threats, intimidation and bogus lawsuits to harass rent-protected tenants so they’d leave.
Schneiderman called Croman “the Bernie Madoff of landlords,”adding, “My office will not tolerate anyone who attempts to line their own pockets by gaming the system. No one is above the law — no matter how rich or powerful.
“My message to unscrupulous landlords is simple: If you put your own profits over your tenants’ legal protections, we will investigate you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
The high-living Croman, wearing a tie-less suit, surrendered to law enforcement at dawn and pleaded not guilty in Manhattan criminal court. Holding a folder to hide his cuffed hands, he was released on $500,000 cash bail.
Croman is a regular on the black-tie fundraiser circuit, posing for photos with socialites and living it up in the Hamptons — exploits that provide an image in stark contrast to the source of his wealth.
Most of the rent-stabilized buildings he targets are in gentrifying neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side, where property values have rocketed skyward in formerly forlorn neighborhoods.
A key player in Croman’s campaign of terror is a former NYPD cop, Anthony Falconite, who regularly used deceptive tactics to gain entry to tenants’ apartments and falsely accuse them of breaking rent-control rules, the civil suit charges.
In emails, Croman referred to the ex-cop as his “secret weapon,” and Falconite was caught admitting that he lied about his identity to get access to tenants’ apartments, the suit states.
Croman’s use of Falconite to intimidate renters was first disclosed by the Daily News last year. On Wednesday Falconite was also hit with a civil suit.
Croman rewarded his employees for forcing out tenants who were often referred to as “targets,” the suit alleges. In one particularly candid exchange, Falconite dubbed the push to remove rent-stabilized tenants from Croman buildings as “a team sport.”