NY Lead Paint Landlord Pleading Case in Court
A Buffalo, New York, landlord who has pled guilty on charges regarding lead paint was expected to plead his case at his sentencing hearing yesterday (Nov. 13), including a request to hear from his rabbi.
According to The Buffalo News, prosecutors and inspectors consider Angel Elliot Dalfin “to have been among the worst—if not the worst—rental housing operators in Buffalo before he sold his properties a few years ago.”
In what was reported to be the largest amount ever sought from a landlord in a lead paint violation case in Western New York, the Attorney General’s Office had requested over $5 million from Dalfin back in August 2022.
The former landlord—who surrendered in July 2022 at the federal courthouse to face criminal charges related to lead paint violations—once owned and/or controlled 150 single- and two-family homes in Buffalo, New York, where 29 children reportedly suffered from lead poisoning.
According to court records, Dalfin operated using a web of 19 companies incorporated in the states of Wyoming, Maryland, Delaware and New York, where he shuffled the properties among them.
The price tag for these violations was determined by a combination of penalties, restitution and forfeited rent resulting from 126 instances of deceptive acts and practices that State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto found Dalfin and his entities engaged in.
Lead paint landlord wants judge to hear from his rabbi at sentencinghttps://t.co/lufmhrjtCe— The Buffalo News (@TheBuffaloNews) November 8, 2023
In 2018, Dalfin and his property manager, Paul Richard Heil, were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to make false documents.
According to the complaint, between 2010 and 2018, approximately 50-60% of tenants living in properties owned/operated by Dalfin and Heil did not receive lead disclosure notices required by federal law. The approximately 40-50% of tenants who did receive lead disclosure notices were tenants receiving Section 8 financial housing assistance.
In addition to providing false lead disclosures to renters, the defendants also provided false lead disclosure statements to buyers of numerous properties they owned/operated. Many of those properties had an extensive history of lead paint violations documented by the health department.
Mention of properties cited between 2013 and 2020 was also included in the release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York.
In April 2022, Dalfin was banned from renting out or managing residential properties in New York State as part of a default judgment.
Then, in June, it was announced that Heil had been fined $15,000 and put on probation for a year by a federal judge as a result of his misdemeanor count of aiding and abetting the failure to provide a lead paint hazard warning notice for a property on two occasions.
At the beginning of August that year, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Omilian wrote in court papers that, “The totality of the evidence in the record established the callous, egregious nature of (his) deceptive acts.” In addition to lead paint violations, Omilian also revealed other offenses Dalfin committed, including at least 192 eviction actions between 2015 and 2020 that were never authorized to occur.
The Attorney General’s Office also cited several other illegal actions Dalfin had taken to obscure his identity and whereabouts, in addition to the creation of a fictional person, “Lisa Peck,” who was used to manage properties and interact with tenants—including the signing of leases, property management agreements, Section 8 housing contracts and other legal documents.
A breakdown of the amounts the state has asked Panepinto to levy are as follows:
Judge Panepinto was quoted during the recent hearing as being “very inclined” to grant the state’s request. In addition, the judge is planning to investigate if any of the money received from Dalfin and his entities could be spent on programs focused on lead paint remediation, health and safety efforts versus the government budget.
Earlier this year, in April, Dalfin pled guilty to making and using a false statement on documents related to lead-paint disclosures for properties he sold.
Dalfin, who had been a fugitive for more than a year after the U.S. Attorney’s Office criminal complaint, has reportedly now begun showing up to his court proceedings. He has asked a federal judge to allow Rabbi Yossi Bryski, the director of alternative sentencing for the Aleph Institute, to address the court at Dalfin’s sentencing hearing yesterday (Nov. 13).
“He has indicated that his statement to the court would not be long, likely only a few minutes,” defense attorney Herbert Greenman said in a court filing. “Rabbi Bryski has indicated to me that he feels that it is important for him to do so. He is willing to come to Buffalo at his own expense.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office opposes the request, a spokeswoman told The Buffalo News.
In a letter last week to U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Vilardo, Dalfin reportedly expressed remorse for his crime. He also cited his COVID-19 illness to explain it.
“I suffered a coma from COVID-19 complications, and in the wake of my recovery, I signed numerous false documents without the guidance of an experienced attorney,” Dalfin wrote.
“My illness was my excuse. I have relentlessly self-criticized, and I now understand that I should have been more thorough and inquisitive before endorsing that stack of documents. I wholeheartedly admit my wrongdoing and accept the enduring stain it has left on my conscience.”
Greenman, in a new court filing, acknowledged that children who lived in the various properties had higher than normal blood lead levels, but he said there is no documentation of any existing injuries or medical issues that were suffered by any of the children due to the levels of lead paint.
“We do not in any way mean to suggest that Mr. Dalfin’s crime of conviction is not serious,” Greenman said in his sentencing recommendation. “He, more than anyone else, understands the nature and circumstances of his criminal conviction.
“To say that he is ashamed of what he has done would be a great understatement. He has never intended to minimize his conduct and, when his conduct is considered in conjunction with everything else in the record, we believe that Mr. Dalfin should not go to jail.”
Additionally, in response to the $5.1 million in penalties from the state Attorney General’s Office, the state has reportedly not received any funds from Dalfin.
Dalfin’s plea agreement includes an advisory guideline imprisonment range of 12 to 18 months, a fine between $5,500 and $55,000 and one to three years of supervised release.
Greenman said the Aleph Institute, a nonprofit Jewish organization founded in 1981, provides support and rehabilitation to individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system. In a letter filed with the court, the institute recommended against incarcerating Dalfin, suggesting he continue to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. It recommended six hours per week for one year.