Notorious vulture landlord Steve Croman pleaded guilty to felony charges and agreed to serve a year in jail pursuant to a plea deal today.
Croman pleaded guilty to three counts of grand larceny, tax fraud, and mortgage fraud, and agreed to pay a $5 million fine on top of his jail term. He had faced 20 felony counts and as many as 25 years in prison.
Police arrested Croman along with his mortgage broker Barry Swartz in 2016. State investigators accused them of jacking up rents on rent rolls by listing as market-rate apartments that were actually rent-stabilized, and submitting the falsified rent records to banks to get loans worth over $45 million. In court this morning, Croman said, "I knew the documents were false."
Croman also failed to pay payroll taxes in 2011. He skated on charges of filing false permit paperwork with the Department of Buildings.
"Steven Croman is a fraudster and a criminal who engaged in a deliberate and illegal scheme to fraudulently obtain bank loans," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who brought the case against Croman, in a statement. "He went to outrageous lengths to boost his bottom line—including falsely listing rent-stabilized units at market rates when his efforts to displace those renters had failed."
Croman's sentencing is set for September 19th.
Croman owns over 140 buildings throughout Manhattan, according to the Attorney General's Office. A civil lawsuit by Schneiderman—challenging his alleged tactics of noxious renovations, questionable evictions, falsifying building documents, and aggressive buyout offers—is ongoing. He is so hated that renters from buildings across his portfolio formed a union in the early aughts.
When Croman was arrested, Schneiderman said that criminal tenant harassment is hard to pin on individual landlords, so after hearing repeated complaints, his investigators looked into Croman's fraud, seeing it as a more winnable case.
Depending on the debt load of Croman's company, 9300 Realty, $5 million may not be much of a hit. A 2014 analysis by The Real Deal found that Croman took in at least $63 million from his Manhattan portfolio in 2014.
Croman and his wife Harriet reportedly own a multimillion dollar mansion in the town of Sagaponack, and have been known to host blowout Hamptons parties attended by the likes of CNN head Jeff Zucker. The couple also emptied a six-story building on East 72nd Street of its 23 rent-regulated households to turn it into a single-family home for themselves.
Croman's son Jake showed up in the news in 2016 when video surfaced of him calling an Uber driver a "minimum-wage faggot," and saying, "You're working all night! Guess what? I'm gonna sit on my ass and watch TV. Fuck you!"
Swartz's 15 felony charges are still pending. A lawyer for Swartz didn't return a call seeking comment.