Jewish landlords among 41 charged in Brooklyn alleged gas meter scam

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Forty-one people, including several Jewish landlords, were arrested in Brooklyn allegedly for conspiring to circumvent gas safety regulations to increase their profits.

The actions attributed to the suspects, who were arrested Thursday, allegedly took place last year acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was quoted as saying by NBC.

“These defendants operated a criminal enterprise and accepted cash for illegal installation of gas meters at thirty-three residential buildings in Brooklyn and some in Queens,” he said. Most suspects are former employees of National Grid, a provider of electricity and natural gas servicing homes and businesses in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

A photograph of one of the suspects published by the New York Post shows a large young man with sidelocks wearing a large kippah and a black-and-0white suit favored by Haredi Jews. He was not named.

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Prosecutors said they have a voice recording of a main suspect conspiring with one landlord.

“What you’re doing is getting a meter, you’re getting a box, you’re getting an account,” the main suspect is heard saying, according to NBC. “I don’t have gas authorization,” a landlord replies. “You don’t need it, you do not need it, you do not need gas authorization,” the main suspect replies.

To install gas meters legally, a licensed master plumber has to file a work permit with the city and submit plans. Then the city has to approve the work and test it to give gas authorization for the site. The process can take months but the alleged scheme described by the prosecutors cut down the waiting time to several days, the report said.

The result endangered people’s live, the prosecutors said. When the city’s Department of Buildings went back to inspect the gas meters after the scheme was uncovered, they found that some of the building owners had used a sort of cheap plastic piping that contributed to recent gas explosions in Manhattan that killed two people.

“For pure greed, they operated a criminal scheme that had no concern for safety rules and regulations,” Gonzalez said at a Thursday press conference.