DEC raid 3 properties owned by VW Parts
By Joe Moskowitz
Three properties owned by a Fleischmanns auto salvage and repair shop operator were raided by more than a dozen officers from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Tuesday morning.
DEC officers conducted simultaneous raids in Fleischmanns at VW Parts Inc., located at the corner of Main Street and Wagner Avenue, at the former Bailey’s Manufacturing plant at the corner of Wagner Avenue and Depot Street, and at the former Maxim Auto Shop on Route 28 just east of the of Arkville. All three of the properties are owned by William Hrazanek of Fleischmanns and all three locations have been used for the storage of automobiles and auto parts.
The former Fleischmanns High School, which is now an Orthodox Jewish summer school, was evacuated during the raid on VW Parts Inc., although residents were soon allowed to return to the building.
A DEC supervisor told the News that he was not at liberty to say what the DEC was searching for in the raids. He did say the raids were part of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the DEC’s Environmental Law Division and that they were part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
He would not say if VW Parts Inc. would remain open for business pending the outcome of the investigation, but he did say that the three buildings would have to be padlocked to keep the buildings secure because DEC officers may have broken some locks in order to gain entry into some of the buildings.
A DEC officer said the raid was meant to be a surprise so village officials were not given advance notice. But village trustee David Yates, who was on the scene, said he did not know what the DEC expected to find, but he hopes the auto salvage operation is shut down.
The junkyards in the area operated by VW Parts Inc. have been a source of controversy for many years as various residents and village officials have fought against the business.
In February 2008, Hrazanek was charged with one count of insurance fraud (a second-degree Class C felony) and four counts of offering a false instrument for filing (first-degree Class E felonies).
Investigators said Hrazanek allegedly provided fraudulent insurance and auto registrations for high-mileage vehicles that were then sold to unlicensed drivers. At the time of the arrest, police said that most of the people receiving the vehicles were undocumented illegal immigrants residing in Delaware and Ulster counties.
New York State law requires licensed drivers to be U.S. citizens or legal residents. In order to apply for a driver’s license, the applicant must possess valid identification, such as a Social Security card. The investigators said none of the people receiving the insurance and registrations had Social Security cards. The case also charged Hrazanek with calling the cars “garage vehicles” to obtain inexpensive insurance policies because such vehicles are only used by employees in and around a business.
He eventually pleaded guilty to charges of fifth-degree insurance fraud and second-degree offering a false instrument for filing and was fined and given a conditional discharge.
Hrazanek was allowed to plea to the reduced charges in Delaware County Court. Under the plea deal with Delaware County District Attorney Richard Northrup, Hrazanek was sentenced to concurrent one-year conditional discharges on each count and fined $2,000.
Explaining his decision to accept the plea, DA Northrup cited “certain infirmities in the case” and said that Hrazanek had no prior criminal record.