Jan. 16, 2018 By Tara Law
An Elmhurst couple was indicted Tuesday for illegally converting a single-family house into five single room occupancies, the Queens District Attorney’s office announced this afternoon.
The couple, Segundo Chimbay, 53, and Maria Chimbay, 52, charged tenants $750 to $1,400 rent each month to live in a single room at 40-33 Forley Street in Elmhurst. Fifteen people occupied the house and shared a common kitchen on the main floor, according to the District Attorney’s office.
The Chimbays, who live on 94th Street, were slapped with an 18-count indictment charging them with a variety of crimes, including fraud, reckless endangerment and 15 violations of the New York City Administrative Code. They both face up to seven years in prison.
The violations were first discovered on March 14, 2016 when a Department of Buildings inspector responded to a complaint and found that the house was illegally converted into multiple units and constituted a “specified immediately hazardous violation.”
The department subsequently issued a vacate order and the tenants were told to leave, according to the District Attorney’s office.
The inspector followed up on Feb. 15, 2017 and allegedly discovered one room in the basement, three SROs on the second floor and one in the attic. A re-vacate order was issued to the Chimbays for failing to comply with the original vacate order.
The following month, a Department of Buildings inspector and a Department of Investigations investigator went to the house and found the same conditions.
Despite the vacate orders, the Chimbays allegedly assured their tenants that the building was legal and continued to collect rent, according to the District Attorney’s office.
“The defendants are accused of trading the safety of their tenants for cold, hard cash,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement.
The Chambays have a history of illegally dividing houses and cramming people into them.
Segundo Chimbay was charged with reckless endangerment and other crimes in 2013 for allowing 46 people, including 12 children, to live in four of his properties in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, DNAinfo wrote at the time.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless endangerment on August 20, 2014 and was sentenced on October 3, 2014 to 3 years’ probation, a spokesperson with the District Attorney’s office confirmed.
Brown said that today’s indictment is part of a crackdown on dangerous and illegal housing by his office, the NYC Department of Investigations and the NYC Department of Buildings.
Brown said that illegal conversions put a strain on city services, such as parking, transportation, waste disposal and schools. He added that they also “endanger the lives of building residents as well as firefighters and other personnel who, in responding to an emergency, would have been confronted by a maze of rooms with no way out.”