A New York City man who owns an air conditioning business could face jail time after officials accused him of placing poisonous mercury in a family's new AC system after they badgered him with complaints about the the old one.
Yuriy Kruk, a 48-year-old Queens resident, faces charges of attempted assault and endangering public health, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a news release.
Officials say Roman Pinkhasov hired Kruk, owner and operator of A+HVAC and Kitchen Corporation, to do heating, cooling and vent work on his Jamaica Estates home, according to NBC New York.
Pinkhasov complained "persistently" that the air conditioning unit on the second floor was not working, leading Kruk to eventually tell him the machine was not fixable and would need to be replaced. Kruk replaced the machine in August of 2015, according to the news release.
But the next month, Pinkhasov's wife, Olga Yurgaueva, found a drops of a silvery substance on the floor. Pinkhasov found more in the vents and near where Kruk had been working, according to the New York Daily News.
The family called 911 and fire officials recovered even more mercury from the AC unit across both floors. Pinkhasov, his wife and son all tested positive for elevated mercury levels and complained of joint pain, headaches and lethargy, which are symptoms common in mercury poisoning, according to the news release.
"Every New Yorker should feel secure about the people they hire to work in their homes," DEC Commissioner Seggos said in the release. "In this case, the victims were merely asking for a repair of their heating and air conditioning units, but instead found themselves fighting for their lives. If not for the persistence of these victims and the investigative work of our DEC investigators and the Queens District Attorney's Office, the mystery surrounding these victims' ailments and the criminal conduct outlined in this indictment may never have come to light."
Brown, the Queens attorney general, said in the news release that the "element could prove fatal over time and did make the residents sick."
Kruk was released on a $10,000 bond and ordered to return to court at the end of July, according to the New York Daily News. He could face as many as 15 years in jail if convicted. He is being represented by New York City lawyer Dmitriy Shakhnevich, according to court records.