The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Landlord Brothers Illegally Pushed Tenants Out, Prosecutors Say

By Serena Dai | April 16, 2015 4:49pm | Updated on April 17, 2015 5:40pm
 Landlords Amrom Israel (front) and Joel Israel (back) have been charged with burglary scheme to defraud, grand larceny and unlawful eviction.
Landlords Amrom Israel (front) and Joel Israel (back) have been charged with burglary scheme to defraud, grand larceny and unlawful eviction.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Serena Dai

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Two brothers who are alleged slumlords were hit with charges for unfair landlord practices Thursday, including a burglary charge for locking a tenant out of her apartment, prosecutors said.

Joel Israel, 34, and Amrom Israel, 37, were also charged with fraud, grand larceny and unlawful eviction for pushing rent-stabilized tenants out of their homes, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

The Israel brothers have repeatedly demolished apartments in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick to the point of making them unlivable — forcing tenants out to make way for market-rate apartments, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said.

At 98 Linden St., the brothers' workers cut out portions of an apartment's kitchen floor and bathroom walls and refused to fix it, according to the indictment.

And a woman living at 324 Central Ave. returned home from a doctor's appointment one morning to find that she had been locked out of her apartment, the indictment said.

When she called police to get back in, her kitchen and bathroom had been destroyed.

Rent for the stabilized apartments ranged from $650 to $1,100, while the brothers were charging between $2,100 and $3,500 after renovating the properties.

"The defendants stole the tenants' right to occupy and possess their apartments," the indictment said.

They were also charged for unlawful practices at 300 Nassau Ave. and 15 Humboldt St.

The Israel brothers were arrested Thursday morning and arraigned in the afternoon. Judge Danny Chun set the bail at $75,000 and $30,000 in cash for Joel and $50,000 and $25,000 in cash for Amrom.

The brothers were also required to surrender their passports.

Both men, who face up to 15 years in prison, pleaded not guilty.

Their attorney Kevin Keating said the charges were "astonishing" and that the brothers would be "vigorously" fighting them.

Keating argued that all of the Israels' practices were in line with the law, with documentation of tenants signing papers acknowledging that they no longer had rights to the apartment.

"I've never seen an indictment like this," he told reporters after the arraignment. "It's astonishing, frankly."

Housing advocates in north Brooklyn have accused the Israel brothers of harassment in their properties for years, fighting the brothers in court on behalf of tenants.

It's uncommon for landlords accused of harassment to be hit with criminal charges, they have said.

A slew of city officials — including District Attorney Ken Thompson, Public Advocate Letitia James and Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been — showed support for the indictment Thursday as a protection of tenants' rights.

"Let this be a message to all that harassment of tenants will not be tolerated," James said in a statement, "and that government will use every tool possible to defend working families and take on unscrupulous landlords."