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Astoria developer charged in illegal building rap: DA

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A 34-year-old professional engineer from Astoria has been accused of falsely certifying that he had inspected a Brooklyn building where a city firefighter was injured last year after two floors of balconies collapsed, the city Department of Investigation’s commissioner said.

Vasilios Kourkoumelis, of Astoria, was charged last week in a Brooklyn court with two felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing, said Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the Department of Investigation. If convicted, the defendant could face up to four years in prison, she said.

“A professional who falsely certifies that a construction project follows the building code without even inspecting the job potentially puts the public at risk,” Gill Hearn said.

The DOI works closely with the city Department of Buildings to “expose this kind of fraud and hold those responsible to account,” she said.

The city began investigating the defendant after two floors of wooden balconies collapsed on the rear of a building at 222 Kings Highway in Brooklyn in December 2008, Gill Hearn said. A firefighter who had been battling a blaze at the site was injured.

DOB records show that a violation had been issued at the building in September 1988 after its balconies were found not to be within the city’s building code and had been erected without a permit, Gill Hearn said.

But Kourkoumelis, who had been authorized to self-certify jobs with the city, had allegedly signed and affixed his professional engineer’s stamp to a report on the building he submitted to the DOB in January 2006, the DOI commissioner said. At that time, he is alleged to have indicated to the city that he had inspected the building’s balconies.

The defendant is accused of not inspecting the site to confirm whether violations at the site had been corrected or if the balconies had been built in compliance with the building’s plans, Gill Hearn said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is prosecuting the case.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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