An FDNY fire prevention inspector was arrested on Thursday for allegedly filing fire-safety inspection reports for Manhattan addresses that, in four separate instances, he never actually visited.
As part of a separate investigation, officials also arrested the owner of a private fire extinguisher company who conducted fake inspections at delis, grocery stores and laundromats in Brooklyn and Queens, defrauding businesses of more than a thousand dollars.
"Faking fire prevention inspections or failing to inspect fire extinguishers not only compromises safety but can also jeopardize the lives of many people," said Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson in a statement.
According to the Department of Investigation, 47-year-old Edward Woychowski of Flushing filed 18 false FDNY inspection reports for addresses in Manhattan between September 2014 and March 2015. In each report, Woychowski indicated that he had driven his personal car to the inspection site—statements that the DOI says do not match up with Woychowski's cell phone records or surveillance footage from various cameras on city bridges.
Last September 4th, Woychowski documented an inspection at 284 Mott Street that lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. However, according to license plate data, Woychowski was actually driving to Brooklyn over the Manhattan bridge at 10:52 that morning. A few months later, Woychowski issued fire code violations for 1131 Broadway in Manhattan, despite the fact that his phone was pinging cellphone towers in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey that morning.
Woychowski, a 15-year veteran of the FDNY with a salary of $45,312, has been charged with 24 counts of tampering with public records, and 24 counts each of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing—felonies with maximum sentences ranging from 4 to 7 years in prison.
39-year-old Alexander Rios of Freeport is the owner of a fire inspection company called Fire Safety Corp. which was, until September 28th, certified to inspect and service portable fire extinguishers in private homes. Rios was not, however certified to inspect and service fire extinguishers and range hoods in private businesses.
Nevertheless, Rios conducted inspections at 11 businesses between May and October of this year, sometimes slapping fire hoods with proof-of-inspection stickers from companies that Rios wasn't even affiliated with. Inspections were conducted on October 19th at a grocery store, three delis and a hair salon in Queens. DOI and FDNY investigators followed Rios' trail, and saw that none of the extinguishers had been properly serviced. At Sion Grocery Store in Steinway, one of the fire extinguishers was empty.
Rios, whose domestic inspection license has been suspended, has been charged with scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument in filing, and falsifying business records—all felonies with a maximum 7-year sentence.