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Investigation shuts down illegal apartments

January 25, 2012 3:07:47 PM PST
Two weeks after Eyewitness News exposed illegal fire trap apartments in the Bronx, the city Wednesday moved the families out to safer living quarters and, for the second time in less than a year, sealed up the building.

Up to eight families paid $700 a month each for a single room.

No heat forced tenants to use tiny space heaters.

No stove meant cooking on hot plates.

The roof leaked and broken pipes spilled raw sewage into the basement.

It was a dangerous dwelling from top to bottom.

"It's a fire hazard, we know that. But that's the only way we can get warmer because if not we'd be totally frozen in that room," a tenant said.

"Tomorrow we can meet again, here again," said Manny Collado, the landlord.

And here was the landlord on Monday before the city carried out it's vacate order.

He was trying to get one of the tenants to work with him in a scheme to keep the city from shutting down his money-making fire trap.

What he didn't know is the tenant is working with Eyewitness News and wearing an undercover camera.

"If these people come by on Wednesday you show them, 'Listen I got a lease here bro, I don't know what you're talking about. This is my apartment I got a two year lease here,'" Collado said.

The landlord then instructs the tenant to lie to city officials by telling them the building is rented by one family and not illegally rented out as single rooms.

"Everybody there is family member. Everybody in that apartment is going to be family. They're my cousins, they live with me," Collado said.

The city has known about Manny Collado for several years.

He's one of the city's worst landlords with more than $70,000 in fines.

This building, was shut down Wednesday by the Department of Housing Preservation had been shut down and sealed up 10 months ago, only to be re-opened and rented again by landlord Collado.

"That's all Manny wants is money, money, money, money," said Robert Wilson, a tenant.

"And how much did you lose to Manny?" Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"Basically over a thousand dollars," Wilson said.

Eyewitness News wanted to ask Manny about his willingness to put lives at risk to make money, but he never gave us a chance.

"Manny why are you running, why won't you answer our questions?" Eyewitness News asked.

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If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com.

Follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimhoffer.wabc

Follow Sarah Wallace on Twitter at twitter.com/swinvestigates and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sarahwallace.wabc

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