NY Lead Paint Landlord Sentenced to Probation
A Buffalo, New York, landlord who has pled guilty on charges regarding lead paint has avoided jail time after a sentencing hearing at the beginning of the week.
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.
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 and 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 and 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.
Earlier in the month, Dalfin requested that Rabbi Yossi Bryski, the director of alternative sentencing for the Aleph Institute, address the court at his sentencing hearing. In a letter the week prior 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.
Defense Attorney Herbert Greenman, in a 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.
On Monday (Nov. 13), U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced that Dalfin was sentenced to serve five years’ probation. This will include eight months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, ordered by Vilardo.
Additionally, Dalfin was also ordered to perform 600 hours of community service at Habitat for Humanity within the first three years of probation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who handled the case, stated that Dalfin, using the entity Vin7, LLC, sold 23 properties in the City of Buffalo, all of which were built prior to 1978.
As part of the sale of the properties, Dalfin reportedly executed Lead-Based Paint Rider and Disclosure forms, on which he falsely stated that the lead-based paint hazards at the properties were unknown and that he had no records pertaining to lead-based paint hazards at the properties.
The false statements were material to Dalfin’s compliance with the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, a statute implemented and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to the office’s release, on average, it would have cost the buyer of each of the properties $5,000 to stabilize the lead-based-paint hazards present.
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the EPA, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Tyler Amon and HUD, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge Christina D. Scaringi. Additional assistance was provided by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
According to a report from Buffalo News, in a written submissions to the judge, Dalfin contended that, for the most part, he was not the owner of the properties and that he was suffering from Covid-19 when he signed a “stack of documents” that were false.
“The truth is much different,” Mango said in a court filing, adding that Dalfin was “trying to excuse his conduct.”
“I’m truly ashamed of what I did and what I did not do,” Dalfin told Vilardo at the hearing. Dalfin said he continues to “hope and pray” that those who lived in the rental homes are healthy and living productive lives.
Dalfin’s crime posed a danger to the health of children who lived in the properties, Vilardo said, calling it the kind of offense “that really push my buttons.”
“I agonized over whether to impose a sentence of imprisonment,” he said.
The judge reportedly said he opted not to incarcerate Dalfin in part because of the character letters sent on his behalf. Also, keeping him out of prison will give him more time to earn money to pay the restitution and start performing community service at a Habitat for Humanity chapter.
“I have no doubt you are a very good person who did a very bad thing,” Vilardo told Dalfin.
The plea agreement calls for Dalfin to make restitution for the $115,000. However, it was noted that the prospects of him making that restitution seem doubtful, with Greenman stating he is “financially… destitute.”