The three people responsible for the fatal March 2015 East Village gas explosion were each sentenced to up to a dozen years in state prison.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus handed down the sentences — of from four to 12 years for each defendant — last Friday to landlord Maria Hrynenko, 59, unlicensed plumber Athanasios “Jerry” Ioannides, 63, and contractor Dilber Kukic, 44.
The fatal blast at 121 Second Ave., near E. Seventh St., resulted in the deaths of Nicholas Figueroa, 23, who was on a lunch date at Sushi Park restaurant, and Moises Locon, 26, a busboy at the restaurant, and seriously injured 13 people, including a Berkeley student who was going to Pommes Frites for Belgian fries and lost an eye.
The gas-fueled explosion sparked a raging fire that destroyed three tenements in all.
On Nov. 15 of last year, a New York State Supreme Court jury found the defendants guilty of all charges against them, including manslaughter in the second degree. Prosecutors proved at trial that the trio cooked up an illegal scheme to funnel gas from 119 Second Ave. to 121 Second Ave. via a jury-rigged system hidden from view behind a locked door in the former building’s basement.
“Developers and property owners across the city should keep today’s sentencing in mind as New York’s building boom continues into 2020,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said after the sentencing. “If you cut corners based on expediency and profit and kill or injure New Yorkers in the process, you are engaging in criminal conduct and my office will seek significant prison time. I would like to thank the prosecutors in my office’s Rackets Bureau for their steadfast commitment to achieving justice for the victims, whose loved ones have shown remarkable strength from the moment of this shocking crime through today’s resolution of this case. Our office will never forget Nicholas and Moises.”
Hrynenko, of Rockland County, and Kukic, of the Bronx, were convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, assault in the second and third degrees and reckless endangerment in the second degree.
Ioannidis, of Queens, was convicted of all the same charges as the other two, plus falsifying business records in the second degree.
The New York Post reported that the judge, in his sentencing statement, noted the disaster could have been far worse.
“They bypassed strict regulations,” Obus said. “Two people were killed, many others were seriously injured. It’s miraculous that more people were not injured or killed.”
Yet, the judge said he was not throwing the book at the defendants as hard as he could have, noting their ages and that they “did not intend to blow up the building.”
As happened when they were convicted by the jury in November, when the judge sentenced the landlord, contractor and illegal plumber on Friday, relatives in the courtroom burst into tears, the Post reported.
“I love you!” Hrynenko shouted to a relative while being taken away in handcuffs.