Police arrested an accused slumlord on Thursday on charges of mortgage fraud stemming from an investigation into tenant harassment at an apartment building on the Lower East Side.

Dean Galasso allegedly submitted forged documents including a fake rent roll, to take out a $5.025 million mortgage on the 10-unit building at 43 Essex Street after buying it with his brother Paul in 2014.

Shortly after the purchase, the largely elderly, Chinese-speaking, rent-stabilized tenants of the building went more than a year without cooking gas, according to reporting by Bowery Boogie. The Galassos reportedly also hired a "tenant relocator" named Michel Pimienta to tell tenants the building is unsafe, withhold keys, and tell them they can get better deals other places. Construction workers in the building used the air shaft as a garbage chute for renovation work, filling the building with dust, according to tenant organizers with the group Asian Americans for Equality.

The tenants sued in April 2015, and in December 2016 they reached a settlement in which the owners agreed to pay for lost services, make repairs, and cease the illegal construction. Pimienta hasn't been seen around the building since the ruling.

43 Essex Street, second from right, is largely occupied by rent-stabilized, Chinese-speaking, and elderly tenants. (Google)

An investigation by the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, a joint effort of city and state agencies, led to Dean Galasso's indictment. Galasso is facing six felony counts for charges including grand larceny, forgery, possession of a forged instrument, and falsifying business records. An LLC associated with the Galassos bought the building for $6.9 million, and Galasso allegedly concocted paperwork to show that the financing made more sense than it did. The charges carry as many as 25 years in prison.

"Bad landlords are now on notice: if you attempt to break the law, we will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. Schneiderman's office is prosecuting the case. Schneiderman said further, "Our task force will continue to identify, investigate, and prosecute those who try to game the system."

Emily Goldstein, senior organizer at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, told Gothamist earlier this year that the most egregious instances of tenant harassment often occur at buildings where owners take out "irresponsible loans" "on the assumption that they were going to be able to raise the rent in spite of regulation, or they’re stuck without enough money to make the repairs, because the money is going to the mortgage, which is higher than it ought to have been." The Lower East Side and East Village are hubs of this sort of market-driven harassment.

Though laws exist against tenant harassment, direct culpability is hard to establish, and the penalties tend to only be monetary. Notorious building-flipping downtown landlord Steve Croman has been accused of egregious tenant harassment for decades, but when he was arrested last year, along with mortgage broker Barry Swartz, it was on similar felony charges related to mortgage fraud. Those cases are still pending.

Lawrence Drath, the lawyer who helped Dean Galasso prepare the mortgage agreement for 43 Essex Street, did not respond to an email seeking comment. Galasso's defense attorney did not return a message left with his receptionist. Paul Galasso did not respond to a voicemail left at a number listed for him.