HVAC Company Owner Charged with Attempted Assault in Mercury Poisoning of Queens Family - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Thursday, May 31, 2018

HVAC Company Owner Charged with Attempted Assault in Mercury Poisoning of Queens Family

Defendant Allegedly Contaminated New AC System With Potentially Lethal Element After Homeowners Complained of Malfunctioning Unit; Additionally Charged With Environmental Conservation Law Violations

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced yesterday that a Queens County HVAC business owner has been charged with attempted assault, endangering public health and other charges for allegedly placing the potentially deadly mercury chemical in the air conditioning units of a Jamaica Estates, Queens, home and sickening the residents.

"Every New Yorker should feel secure about the people they hire to work in their homes," DEC Commissioner Seggos said. "In this case, the victims were merely asking for a repair of their heating and air conditioning units, but instead found themselves fighting for their lives. If not for the persistence of these victims and the investigative work of our DEC investigators and the Queens District Attorney's Office, the mystery surrounding these victims' ailments and the criminal conduct outlined in this indictment may never have come to light."

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Yuriy Kruk, 48, of Alderton Street in Rego Park, Queens. The defendant was arraigned earlier today before Acting Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Kron on a six-count indictment charging him with second-degree attempted assault and first- and fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment. Justice Kron set bail at $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash and ordered the defendant to return to court on July 30, 2018. If convicted, Kruk faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison.

"The defendant in this case is accused of attempting to poison a family with mercury after persistent complaints from the homeowners about the malfunctioning air conditioning unit," Queens DA Brown said. "The defendant allegedly had a final fix for the complainers and is alleged to have placed poisonous mercury in the new AC. Exposure to the element could prove fatal over time and did make the residents sick. Fortunately a family member spotted the chemical commonly referred to as quicksilver and alerted police. The defendant will now answer in a court of law for his alleged scheme."

District Attorney Brown said that, according to the indictment, the victim, Roman Pinkhasov hired A+ HVAC and Kitchen Corporation - owned and operated by Kruk - to do heating, ventilation and air conditioning work in his home. The victim persistently complained that the AC unit on the second floor wasn't working properly. In the summer of 2015, the defendant told the homeowner that the system could not be repaired and would need to be replaced and installed a new unit in July 2015.

The District Attorney said, according to the charges, after the installation Mr. Pinkhasov's wife Olga Yurgaueva found drops of a silver substance on the floor. In August 2015, Mr. Pinkhasov also found several more drops of the silver material in the vents and where the defendant had been working in the house. The family then called 911 and members of the New York City Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Unit responded and recovered additional mercury from the first floor vent and other parts of the AC units on both floors.

The family of three - the parents and their son - tested positive for mercury levels above acceptable norms. All three victims complained of various symptoms associated with mercury poisoning, including joint pain, headaches and lethargy.

The investigation was conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation unit, under the supervision of Captain Jesse Paluch and Investigator Jeff Conway, with the assistance of DEC Region 2 Captain Francisco Lopez. The DEC encourages anyone who may be a witness to an environmental crime to contact the NYS DEC's 24 hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 844-DEC-ECOS (844-332-3267).

Assistant District Attorney Charissa Ilardi, of Queens District Attorney Brown's Economic and Environmental Crimes Bureau, also participated in the investigation.

Assistant District Attorneys Anna K. Diao and Gregory C. Pavlides, the Bureau Chief for District Attorney Brown's Economic and Environmental Crimes Bureau, will be prosecuting the case, under the supervision Executive Assistant District Attorney of Investigations Peter A. Crusco.

It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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