Copyright 2008 - Journal News, The White Plains, NY - All Rights Reverved
MOUNT VERNON - A real estate company run by the son of city marshal and former Democratic boss Serapher Conn-Halevi collected $162,000 in private-vendor fees from the Westchester County Department of Social Services,including more than $15,000 while he worked for the agency.Nahshon Halevi's company, Front Page Realty, also received nearly $12,000 while he worked for the countyPlanning Department - an apparent violation of that office's policy - and was paid a $1,680 brokers fee to find afederally subsidized apartment for his three children and their mother.Most of the fees paid to the company beginning in 2004 came while Halevi worked for the Mount Vernon UrbanRenewal Agency, where he was employed as a loan manager. The agency is the focus of an ongoing federalinvestigation that began after a February 2006 audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developmentfound the agency had overbilled the Section 8 housing program by $1.7 million.Halevi, 34, left the Mount Vernon job four months after the audit and took a job with the county PlanningDepartment when it took over control of the city's troubled Section 8 housing program.Halevi also worked for his mother as a deputy city marshal. He started Front Page Realty several years ago and ranit out of the marshal's office in the Roosevelt Square Professional Building. Until this year, Conn-Halevi alsochaired the Mount Vernon Democratic City Committee.Halevi is now a salesman at Four Seasons Real Estate Center in Mount Vernon. He left the county in December after failing to score high enough on the Civil Service exam to keep the DSS job.He refused to comment during a brief telephone conversation and did not return several phone messages.
Halevi's Front Page Realty is now listed as inactive by the New York Department of State.The company qualified as a vendor for the Department of Social Services in early 2004. The agency pays brokersfees - and first-month's rent and security deposits - for eligible Westchester residents who have to find housing inemergencies. According to DSS policy, the fee is paid once the customer makes a significant effort to find anapartment without a broker.County officials said staff members do not steer customers to particular brokers. Diane Atkins, deputy commissioner of social services, said it is the customer's responsibility to find a broker once the fee has been approved by thedepartment."The customer has the right to go to any broker they want," Atkins said.In 2004, Front Page Realty received $65,029 in fees for finding apartments for 45 recipients of DSS financialassistance. The following year, the fee payments totaled $59,973 for 50 apartments.In 2006 and 2007, the total amount the company received was $37,978.The information was provided in response to a state Freedom of Information Law request by The Journal News.Details that could reveal information about the customers, including locations of apartments, were redacted becauseof confidentiality restrictions. In all, DSS paid $4.6 million in brokers fees from 2004 through 2007.Halevi also received $2,460 earlier this year in county fees as a landlord - $760 for two months rent and $1,700 for asecurity deposit. The money was presumably for renting out an apartment at his two-family home on Beechwood