The managers of four salvage yards and an employee of a towing company in northeast Queens were arrested last week and charged with bribing police officers who they believed would insulate them from criminal prosecution for illegal activities, the Queens district attorney said.
The police arrested six men and one woman last Thursday, all of whom live in Queens and either manage or work for businesses in Willets Point, College Point and Flushing, said Richard Brown, the district attorney.
The defendants are accused of paying $1,300 to undercover officers, who passed themselves off as corrupt and agreed collectively to pay an additional $4,300 over several months, beginning in April, Brown said.
The payments, the district attorney said, were made with the understanding that the police would overlook license violations and missing certificates of occupancy at some of the yards, as well as fail to notice workers who were selling stolen car parts or disassembling vehicles illegally.
In this case, various salvage yard managers and a tow truck operator are accused of paying bribes to police officers who pretended to be corrupt, Brown said, in order to prevent them from engaging in various enforcement activities with regard to illegal dismantling and dealing in stolen parts.
The district attorney identified the seven defendants as Josef Alkut, 32, the manager of DNZ Auto Parts in Willets Point; Ilan Sinay, 32, another manager of DNZ Auto Parts; Elvin Andino, 40, the manager of Africa Auto Repair in Willets Point; Nathan Seri, 47, the manager of Sunrise Auto Parts in Willets Point; Jil and Jongnam Chae, 24, the managers of a salvage yard in Flushing; and Alexander Afridonidze, 34, an employee of Davids Towing in College Point.
Each of the defendants was charged with third-degree bribery and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, Brown said.
In telephone interviews Sunday, the family members of two of the defendants said their relatives were innocent, noting that they had never been arrested before and that in this incident, the undercover police officers hectored them for payments, returning repeatedly until they were given money.
I think this is not true what happened, said Inessa Afridonidze, the wife of Alexander, who works for Davids Towing. I know positive, 100 percent because the police officer wanted him to give him money, and my husband did not give him money. She said that her husband has been driving tow trucks for 13 years, and that he works mostly as a dispatcher at Davids Towing.
He pays my medicine insurance hes a very good husband, Inessa said, adding that in recent months, her medical bills have soared because of a liver transplant she underwent.
Karen Chae, the daughter of Jongnam and Jil Chae, whose parents own a salvage yard in Flushing, said an undercover detective kept returning to the Chaes yard on Collins Place, cajoling her father into giving what she said the detective called a donation.
My parents dont speak fluent English and we deal mostly with Korean customers, she said, adding that the detective was not conversant in Korean. But the detective came and said, If you do this or that, well deal with the situation. He said it was a donation, not bribery.
Chae said her father has had his salvage yard in Flushing for 28 years and has never before been arrested. It was like a shock to us, she said. We got blamed for everything I guess because were a minority and he could not speak English.
The other defendants could not be reached for comment. The district attorneys office could not provide the names of their attorneys by Tuesday night.
The arrests come a little more than a year after a member of the Gambino crime family, who operated an auto salvage yard in Willets Point, was charged in a 35-count racketeering indictment. Last January, Carmine Agnello, the son-in-law of convicted Gambino mob boss John Gotti, was arrested on charges that he attempted to drive another salvage yard in Willets Point out of business. That yard, however, had been set up by law enforcement agencies as part of an undercover operation to gather evidence against Agnello.
Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2001 Community News Group
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