Balloon man given $60K for shop damage by cops

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The city awarded $60,000 to the owner of a Rockaway Boulevard balloon business to repair the damage done by the Police Department when officers mistakenly destroyed a new addition during a search for human remains.

Wayne Scheriff, a resident of Ozone Park, settled a lawsuit filed May 16 against the city, alleging the city deprived him of his Fourth Amendment right to avoid unreasonable searches and seizures of his business, Molly’s Balloons, his attorney Daniel Perez said.

“I just want to get on with my life,” Scheriff said. “I want to put my place back in line and get my business back going in full gear.”

Scheriff said he hopes to get his business ready for the upcoming holiday season, the busiest time for selling balloons, his attorney said.

On Dec. 15, 2001 police from the 102nd Precinct obtained a warrant to search 84-04 Rockaway Blvd. after an arrested man claimed human remains were buried on the site. But when police arrived at 82-04 Rockaway Blvd., a property Scheriff had just leased and then renovated for $30,000, they began to dig despite Scheriff’s protests.

Police officials had no comment on the lawsuit or the money awarded to Scheriff.

Neither the city Department of Finance nor the mayor’s office had a comment on the settlement.

Scheriff tried to explain to police that the address on the warrant was not the address of his property, but investigators ignored his complaints, he said. He said police insisted they had the right address.

“This is where I want to be,” Scheriff said a detective told him after the December incident. He also said detectives advised him to sue the city if he disapproved of the digging.

“They ripped off doors, cellar doors, ripped up fencing, destroyed plumbing, electrical work and the new concrete,” he said.

The mistaken dig cost Scheriff the newly paved parking lot, a small garage and a mobile office he was using as an adjunct site to his main store at 84-10 Rockaway Blvd.

Perez said the settlement money comes from the city’s general budget in a check from the comptroller’s office. The lawsuit was settled Sept. 23 and any cash awards could take up to 90 days to be received, Perez said.

“By the time I get the money, it will have been a year since the incident,” Scheriff said. “I’m just happy the city settled this in good faith and as speedy as they did.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by email at or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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