Feb 22


Attorney General investigating Buffalo landlords

Owners of more than 200 properties are target of probe. Lead-related violations found in 25 of them and some children lead poisoned.

A state Attorney General’s probe into lead poisoning is focused on a group believed to own or manage more than 200 Buffalo properties – at least 25 of which were cited for lead-related violations, and at least 11 of which were homes to children who have tested positive for high lead levels, according to court papers.

The nearly year-long investigation was disclosed in court papers filed Friday by Attorney General Letitia James’ office. The filings describe the landlord/management group as “a tangled web of limited liability companies, corporations, and individuals,” who appear to operate out of a boarded-up building on the city’s East Side.

While no action has been taken against the group, state lawyers are demanding an attorney representing some of its members turn over records related to eight individuals and 47 companies that state investigators suspect are affiliated with each other.

The requested records include the business relationships among group members, as well as the properties they own, and information on lead hazards in the buildings.

The investigation, which began last May, follows an Attorney General’s investigation of Buffalo landlord Angel Elliot Dalfin, who owned more than 150 properties, predominantly in low-income communities of color. That investigation tied more than two dozen cases of child lead poisoning to Dalfin’s properties. James in November 2022 won a $5.1 million lawsuit against Dalfin. 

In November, Dalfin pleaded guilty in federal court to lying about lead hazards in those properties. He was sentenced to five years probation and six months home confinement.

In the current case, a number of companies named in the court papers trace back to 1397 Kensington Ave., a commercial building on the city’s East Side.

Donate to support our nonprofit newsroom

Investigative Post reporters visited the address earlier this week and found the majority of windows on the first floor of the building’s exterior covered in plywood. The property appeared to be largely vacant but under renovation. City records list the building owner as Batim Associates. Twenty other companies listed by the Attorney General’s office report ties to that building, including R&E Batim, Diamond Batim and M&M Batim, according to city and state property and corporation records.

A maintenance man at the Kensington Avenue property told Investigative Post he was hired by Moshe Pinchasi, one of the individuals named in the Attorney General’s legal filings. The worker used his cell phone to call Pinchasi, who asked reporters to leave the property and to speak with his lawyer. Pinchasi hung up when asked for the lawyer’s name and contact information.

Court papers list Anthony J. Barone Jr., as a real estate lawyer who has worked for members of the landlord group. Barone is not a subject of the Attorney General’s investigation, according to court papers.

Assistant Attorney General Patrick Omilian stated in the documents that he contacted Barone last May with a subpoena for a range of business-related documents connected to the landlord group. Barone initially indicated he would provide them, the court documents state.

But a month later, Barone told Omilian that his clients advised him — through another of their attorneys, Richard Steiner — not to respond to the subpoena, according to court papers. Barone also cited attorney-client privilege, though Omilian said the subpoena did “not seek privileged attorney-client communications or otherwise protected attorney work product.”

Omilian requested last week that a state Supreme Court judge issue an order compelling Barone to comply with the investigatory subpoena.

Investigative Post reached out to Barone, who did not respond to a request for comment. A receptionist for Steiner’s law firm said the attorney would not speak to the media during an open case.

The state Attorney General’s office said it has nothing further to add beyond what is in the court documents.

None of the lead-contaminated properties mentioned in court papers have yet been identified. 

Get our newsletters delivered to your inbox
* indicates required

Newsletters *

Investigative Post filed Freedom of Information Law requests with the Erie County Department of Health and the City of Buffalo Department of Permits and Inspections for properties owned by members of the landlord group that were cited for lead hazards and contamination.

Investigative Post also identified 40 properties — owned either formerly or currently by some of the LLCs and individuals listed in court papers — that have been in Housing Court. The properties were purchased by the landlords between 2007 and 2015, with some sold between members of the group for as little as $1. Sales were as recent as last year. The majority of those properties are on the East Side. None of those houses have been confirmed to have been lead contaminated.

Of the 47 real estate companies listed in court documents, 36 were registered in Western New York — either in Buffalo or Williamsville — and six traced back to Brooklyn. Others were established in Albany and in the State of Florida, according to state records.


Investigative Post

Get our newsletters delivered to your inbox * indicates required

Newsletters *