Last month, a bill to prevent building owners from illegally converting apartments into hotel rooms passed the state Senate, seemingly paving the way to put seedy landlords and hustlers out of business. But more than a dozen out-of-towners looking for a dream summer in NYC fell victim to two scam artists in Williamsburg, and exactly what that bill was meant to curtail.
The victims, including eight from Ireland, told the Post that they were duped out of thousands of dollars by Desmond Eaddy and Ronnie Barron, two Brooklyn men posing as lease holders of a massive loft within a new luxury apartment complex at 175 Powers St. in Williamsburg. The two used Craigslist to advertise available rooms for $1,100 monthly "in a brand new, huge, two-floor loft in the absolute best part of Brooklyn," with existing roommates including a "carefully selected great group of students, artists, actors/models, interns and those interested in film and TV production." Barron and Eaddy, who previously did casting work for reality show Gastineau Girls, never had legal authority to rent the place, only a handshake agreement with the building's owner to use it for film and TV production. They hired contractors to carve up the commercial space and convert it into an eight-bedroom "illegal hostel," which was never completed.
"This has been pretty traumatizing...We came to New York and were taken advantage of. Now we sometimes don't even have enough money to feed ourselves," said Neil Sturdy, 19. (Or as Bob Dylan once sang, "We are idiooots babe, it's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.") He and his two traveling companions from Ireland lost $3,375 cumulatively, and are stuck in the city until September, when they have a pre-paid, nonrefundable return flight home.
Two 21-year-olds from Cincinnati, Grania Frueh and Vineet Sathe, were taken for $3,850, and say they were moved to an apartment with 14 other people on North 5th "basically squatting in a divided storage space" and "battling cockroaches, spiders and ants." Others say Barron and Eaddy shuttled them to a hostel for temporary residency, paid for the first couple nights, then stopped all payments and ignored their phone calls. And the Post gets the last zing in: "Both Eaddy and Barron did not respond to many phone, text and e-mail messages over the weekend."