The father of a spoiled frat boy who verbally assaulted an Uber driver is a notorious slumlord who has just been arrested and charged with 20 felony fraud and theft charges. On March 20, Jake Croman was recorded hurling profanity-laced insults at Uber driver Artur Zawada in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the YouTube video quickly went viral.
The University of Michigan student and son of wealthy real estate developer Steven Croman defended his actions to BuzzFeed by saying the driver spewed a bunch of anti-Semitic remarks at him two weeks prior. Zawada denied the charge, telling The Tab the incident was sparked because he cancelled Croman’s ride based on previous unpleasant dealings with him. The University of Michigan publicly denounced his actions, but that was the extent of their involvement.
— Jason Silverstein (@jaysunsilver) April 25, 2016
While the Tau Kappa Episilon fraternity member’s tantrum shined a light on yet another incident of Uber driver abuse, it also put a national spotlight on his father, who is listed as one of the “worst landlords” in New York, according to The Real Deal. It seems that the CEO of Croman Realty was already on the attorney general’s radar and is facing criminal charges that could land him in prison for 25 years plus civil suits that could cripple his real estate empire.
On Monday, the 49-year-old real estate mogul turned himself into authorities and was charged with criminal tax fraud and grand larceny, in addition to falsifying business records and scheming to defraud a bank by inflating his rental income to secure more than $45 million in loans. Mortgage broker Barry Swartz was charged with 15 felony counts.
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) May 9, 2016
Croman has been a fixture in New York city for over 25 years, and he is best known for buying rent-controlled apartment buildings in Manhattan and then systematically pushing tenants out of units by buying them out cheaply or harassing the stubborn ones until they left. He would then deregulate the building and put in tenants who could pay market value, but the units often had shoddy construction and violated lead safety laws.
Tenants who did not comply found themselves with no utilities, the subject of baseless lawsuits, or suddenly in the way of hazardous construction. Croman’s director of security, Anthony Falconite, a former New York City police officer, was accused of abusing his position by intimidating tenants and unlawfully spying on them by entering their apartments to look for ways to evict them.
The New York State Attorney General’s office has been investigating Steven Croman’s activities for almost two years, and in addition to the criminal charges, a lawsuit seeking to force him to give up his real estate license and pay millions of dollars in restitution and penalties has been filed. If things go according to plan, Jake Croman may have to become an Uber driver after this scandal settles because his position as an associate at his father’s company may not exist for much longer.
“My message to unscrupulous landlords is simple: If you put your own profits over your tenants’ legal protections, we will investigate you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Affordable housing has been a major part of Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Administration, and his announcement in 2014 to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over 10 years has sparked an alliance between his office and the Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office to prevent landlord’s like Croman who are fueling the unaffordable housing crisis in a city where rent is already astronomical.
To get an idea of how difficult it was to be on Steven Croman’s bad side, his tenants have created a website, the Croman Tenants’ Alliance which offers resources, information, and support for tenants that have had bad experiences with his management practices. Like his father, concerned citizens have created a website about Jake Croman as well to highlighting their disapproval of his actions. So while Jake he didn’t put his father on the authorities radar, his actions certainly didn’t help sway public opinion either.
[Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images]