A Brooklyn landlord faces charges that he stole more than $8,000 from a tenant then promptly evicted her just two weeks after she moved in.
Yaniv (Ben) Erez, 46, of Miami, Fla., was charged with third- and fourth-degree grand larceny for allegedly taking $8,500 in security deposits and first month’s rent from a tenant at 385 Warwick Avenue. According to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Erez promptly forced the tenant out of the building and then made the apartment uninhabitable so that she couldn’t return.
An attorney for Erez, Jonathan Rosenberg, said the charges were simply an excuse to force his client to appear in court. In February 2016, the New York City Sheriff’s Office issued a warrant for criminal contempt for Erez. At the time, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for allegedly illegally evicting and trashing the apartment of another tenant at 385 Warwick Avenue, according to authorities. Rosenberg said the contempt charge wasn’t enough to drag his client back to New York, so officials procured another charge.
“The charges are bullshit,” he said. “The alleged incident occurred three years ago. They had to come up with a criminal charge way after the fact.”
But Brooklyn officials describe Erez as someone with a history of cheating tenants.
“The defendant is an alleged scam artist who has a history of allegedly evicting vulnerable tenants, stealing their hard-earned money and damaging the apartments they rented to prevent them from moving back in,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “We will now hold him accountable for his unscrupulous and unlawful actions.”
A New York Daily News story about the active warrant for Erez referred to him as a “landlord from hell.”
In the most recent case, a tenant provided Erez with a $6,000 security deposit and a month’s rent in July 2015, according to the criminal complaint. The tenant also provided a blank check to Erez to rent the basement of the East New York building. Instead of filling out the check for $1,500 as agreed upon, Erez allegedly wrote out $2,500. When the check bounced, the tenant gave another blank check and Erez again made it out for $2,500, according to authorities. The check cleared.
At the time, however, the property had an active vacate order. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development issued the order on May 20, 2015 because the building was a “hazard for human habitation,” according to authorities. The order wasn’t lifted until July 10, 2018.
Two weeks after the tenant moved in, a representative for Erez showed up at the apartment and allegedly said he had “something that will force” the tenant to leave. The tenant refused to move out, but he returned later with police and the vacate order, according to the complaint. She was forced to leave and didn’t get her money back, authorities said.
When she returned the next day, she found that the apartment was in disarray and that her personal possessions had been destroyed, according to the complaint.
Erez was arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Friday. Rosenberg noted that his client is still in jail and is struggling to make the $10,000 cash bail.
“This is not a rich, blood-sucking landlord,” he said. “If he was a Donald Trump asshole, he’d be out.”