The Luna Park co-op sits a block from Coney Island's Surf Avenue. Six-thousand people live in the five high-rises.
The Mitchell-Lama development is publicly-funded so the apartments can be sold to middle-income tenants at below-market prices. The co-op keeps a years-long waiting list.
But there was little waiting for some.
In a case that shows how far some New Yorkers will go to secure affordable housing, and how others prey on them, two co-op board officials and a third woman are accused of taking payoffs so applicants could jump the list.
"We actually believe that this was the norm, not the exception," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. "Residents have told us that it's an open secret that this scheme was in place for many years."
"The criminal plan here was simple, the equivalent of passing an envelope of cash under the table to snatch an apartment from those families waiting on the list," Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett said at a news conference announcing the indictments.
Board President Anna Treybich, Treasurer Irina Zeltser, and office manager Karina Andriyan allegedly accepted $874,000 over six years to help applicants for 18 apartments. The alleged bribes ranged from $10,000 to $120,000.
Investigators said the bribes paid for apartments in Florida, dozens of fur coats, designer handbags, and jewelry.
The defendants allegedly forged birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other documents to deceive the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development into thinking the applicants were related to apartment owners and therefore entitled to take over their units.
The Brooklyn district attorney said it would be "naive" to believe similar schemes are not operating at some of the other 268 Mitchell-Lama developments.
"Without a mechanism for tracking who rightfully belonged on the wait list, HPD was unable to detect phony applicants, leaving this process vulnerable to fraud and bribery," Garnett said. "DOI will be issuing recommendations to HPD to close the corruption gaps exposed during this investigation."
The defendants pleaded not guilty and were released on $50,000 bond each. They're due back in court June 12.
As for the people who allegedly paid the bribes, New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development said it is working with city investigators and the DA's office to explore any other legal options as the case moves forward.