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Felony charges against chief building inspector may not stick

In an unusual arrest, police in Spring Valley, New York charged a chief building inspector with giving false certificates of occupancy to a man who was running two day care centers from his home. Police say that the homeowner improperly collected $33,093 in property-tax exemptions in 2012 through 2014, and improperly collected additional money from the state for the operation of two day-care centers, based on the false certificate stating that the home was a two-family structure. However, due to the single-family nature of the home, only one day-care center was allowed by law. The chief building inspector was arrested on an array of felony charges, including third-degree grand larceny, falsifying business records and issuing a false certificate.

The defendant has worked for Spring Valley for about 20 years. The state reportedly distributed funds to the homeowner based on a two unit-home but did not bother to inspect  the property, according to officials. Interestingly, however, there appears to be no charges or allegations that the building inspector received anything of value from the Rabbi, and the official's lawyer insisted that he had committed no crime.

If he did not take a bribe or otherwise benefit from the decision to issue the certificates, he may be able to present a viable defense. The charges are based on criminal wrongdoing, and it can be argued that proof of criminal intent is totally missing in a case where nothing is received for the granting of an incorrect certificate. Authorities also charged the Rabbi with similar felony offenses. 

Lawyers for the Rabbi asserted that the felony charges under New York law were unjustified in that nothing more than zoning violations, if anything, had occurred. The mayor of the town held a meeting to discuss the defendant's job status but no one showed up. The mayor tried unsuccessfully twice in the past to demote the chief building inspector but was reversed twice by the courts. Defense counsel will want to delve deeply into the political dynamics of this arrest to determine whether underhanded tactics were used to "set up" the defendant building inspector. 

Source: lohud.com, "Spring Valley building inspector charged with fraud", Steve Lieberman, Jan. 21, 2016

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