If a rent-free apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. A young student living in New York who got a rent-free deal is suing her landlords for allegedly playing “I spy” with her by installing illegal cameras in the bedroom and bathroom of her apartment.
Aksana Kuzmitskaya filed suit against her former employers and landlords Eli Kadoch and Michel Kadoe, who own and manage 7 West 82nd Street, in New York Supreme Court on Monday.
In 2013, Kuzmitskaya was hired by 7 West 82nd Street LLC to maintain and clean apartments in the nine-unit brownstone building. She moved into her unit, #3B in December 2013 after Kadoe and Kadoch made multiple requests for her to do so, the suit alleges. They offered her room and board as part of her employee compensation. As landlords, Kadoch and Kadoe had the keys to her apartment.
Kadoch and Kadoe entered the apartment on numerous occasions, Kuzmitskaya alleges in the suit. Over the course of roughly six months, the defendants gathered at least 70 videos of her engaging in private acts, according to the suit, which says that the landlords engaged in “intentional infringement on her privacy rights.” The landlords spied on Kuzmitskaya while she was either naked or in her underwear, using the bathroom, engaging in sexual acts and showering. The “high-powered” video cameras were concealed in “unsuspecting devices” in the unit’s bathroom, the suit alleges. The defendants allegedly maintained a live feed of the footage.
After she discovered the cameras, Kutzmitskaya called the police, who in turn launched a criminal investigation. Police seized the landlords’ surveillance devices, wireless remotes, laptops and other related equipment.
Kutzmitskaya quit working for the landlords immediately after discovering the cameras and moved out of the building in July 2014, according to court papers. She is suing for an undisclosed sum for loss of wages, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees.
Joseph Mure, Kuzmitskaya’s lawyer, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
On October 31, a New York County grand jury indicted Kadoch on ten felony counts for the unlawful recordings. According to the court documents, some of the recordings show Kadoch repositioning the cameras in Kuzmitskaya’s apartment.
A LinkedIn profile of a woman with the same name indicates that Kuzmitskaya is from Belarus, is working toward becoming a computer programmer and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2010 from Hrodna State University in Belarus.
In 2009, Kadoe was hit with a $4.5 million lawsuit for illegally using a portion of his building at 7 West 82nd Street as a hotel. Back then, a neighbor alleged Kadoe housed noisy tourists in the building’s garden apartment and created an eyesore for neighbors after he installed a fence in the backyard.