Last month we were treated to the poetic verbal abuse of Michigan student Jake Croman. The dispute with a well regarded Uber driver went viral after Mr. Croman famously boasted to the “f****t bitch” that he had the pleasure of “sitting on his ass all day watching TV” while the former engineer was forced to work.
Apparently, the apple truly does not fall far from the tree. Jake’s father, Steve Croman, one of the most established yet reviled landlords in New York, was charged yesterday with 20 felonies, ranging from tax evasion to grand larceny, alleging upwards of $45 million dollars in fraudulently acquired funds, according to the New York Times.
On Monday, though, his fortunes took a different turn. Mr. Croman, 49, turned himself in to the authorities around 7 a.m. in Lower Manhattan. He was charged with 20 felonies, including grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records and a scheme to defraud, relating to accusations he inflated his rental income to secure more than $45 million in bank loans. He faces up to 25 years in prison. His mortgage broker, Barry Swartz, 53, was charged with 15 felonies.
The New York State attorney general’s office, which investigated Mr. Croman for almost two years, also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Croman on Monday, seeking to force him to give up his real estate business and pay millions of dollars in restitution to tenants and penalties.
While allegations of mortgage and tax fraud that prompted New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to deem Croman the “Bernie Madoff of landlords” are extremely disturbing in their own right, perhaps the most unsettling charges against Mr. Croman center around his treatment of the tenants of the over 140 residential properties under his direct ownership.
Stories exist of intimidation tactics orchestrated by disgraced former police officers, purposeful production of lead-ridden dust, callous disregard for the necessities of inhabitants (including hot water and heat), and admittedly meritless lawsuits designed solely to force unwilling lower income tenants to surrender rent controlled apartments.
Croman’s personal emails, a pivotal aspect of the indictment, detail a man offering cash incentives for the harassment of minority women and children, knowingly endangering the developmental health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children with buildings featuring lead levels more than 65 times regulatory limits, and a total ignorance of city mandated construction stoppages.
Tenants in a Brooklyn building owned by the elder Croman reported “daily horrors,” ranging from closed water lines to “clouds of gas” causing sinus and eye pain. The aforementioned tenants have joined an increasingly large and vocal group of current and former business associates of Croman’s in an information campaign spearheaded by advocacy site cromantenants.com. Mr. Croman, after turning himself in at 7 a.m. Monday morning, sat in the courtroom without expression as the charges were read against him, placing a folder over his lap to obstruct views of his shackled hands.
Though Mr. Croman’s attorney vows to fight each of the claims, Croman also faces a litany of civil litigation, with possible court mandated, or out of court negotiated, settlements or out of court negotiated, could be on track to reach record levels for the disgraced New York developer.
While I am usually against over regulation — believing instead in the free market correcting itself — if these allegations are found to be rooted in fact, preventing the sorts of atrocities tenants of Mr. Croman have endured (perhaps the worst being his “head of security” a former disgraced NYPD officer that has admitted to lying as to his identity and intentions in order to gain access to tenant’s homes with the goal of forcing their eviction with threat of physical harm) is exactly the role the government needs to play.
As for the younger Croman, his life of “sitting on his ass watching TV” seems now to be very much in jeopardy..
[via New York Times]
Image via YouTube