Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters, announced the indictment of a former National Grid employee who infiltrated the public utility and corrupted a number of its employees.
He and other defendants are charged with enterprise corruption and related offenses for operating a shadow utility company that violated city regulations and procedures, installing illegal gas meters across Brooklyn for landlords willing to pay $1,300 to $2,500 per meter.
A total of 37 defendants, including seven National Grid employees, have been charged in connection with the enterprise.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “We simply will not allow the lucrative real estate market in Brooklyn to feed criminal activity and potentially endanger lives. These defendants showed contempt for rules and regulations specifically put into place to protect public safety. And they did this with callous disregard on a regular basis. We will continue to protect Brooklyn residents by pursuing criminal prosecutions of landlords and others who put profits ahead of safeguards.”
Commissioner Peters said, “These defendants ignored safety for personal profit, skirting critical steps and undermining the gas authorization process, according to the charges. Our public report issued today demonstrates how this charged criminal enterprise took root, putting the safety of New Yorkers at risk, and sets out the reforms necessary to safeguard against similar activity in the future. I thank Acting District Attorney Gonzalez and his team of dedicated prosecutors for their partnership in this case, working with DOI to stop corruption of the gas installation industry in this City.”
The Acting District Attorney identified Weldon “Al” Findlay, 47, of Snyder Avenue, Brooklyn, as the alleged mastermind and leader of the enterprise.
Findlay, who worked for National Grid until 2010, and six other defendants are charged with enterprise corruption, which carries up to 25 years in prison. The other 30 defendants charged in connection with the case include landlords, property managers, and contractors who arranged for, installed, or received illegal gas service.
Some of the defendants were arraigned this morning before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which they are variously charged with enterprise corruption, first-degree falsifying business records, second-degree criminal tampering and second-degree commercial bribing.
The defendants are being arraigned throughout the day on indictments in Brooklyn Supreme Court and others are being arraigned on felony complaints in Brooklyn Criminal Court.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, the enterprise consisted of a pattern of criminal activity in connection with the illegal installation of gas meters in exchange for cash at 33 residential properties across Brooklyn, including Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Midwood, and Borough Park, in addition to homes in parts of Queens.
Findlay is alleged to have formed the enterprise, and to have directed its criminal activities throughout the period covered by the indictment, namely January 12, 2016 to June 30, 2016.
The Department of Buildings and National Grid have inspected every property identified in connection with the investigation, and ensured that there is no risk to public safety.
According to the investigation, when a landlord with a new or renovated apartment wanted to avoid either the expense of the required tests, or possible delays associated with compliance, the landlord contacted Findlay, who would arrange for illegal service through his criminal enterprise.
Landlords could be confident that National Grid employees setting up the account and providing gas service would violate or ignore any rules or regulations that would prevent or delay the supply of gas.
Three of the property owners and managers were separately charged by criminal complaint for hiring Findlay to illegally unlock meters at locations where National Grid had terminated service.
This would allow the residences to receive gas temporarily, at least until National Grid noticed the increase in gas usage and sent a technician to lock the line again.