Montauk Share-House Charges

Police found 18 people at four-bedroom in Montauk
Alina Gersham, the alleged organizer of an illegal Montauk share house left East Hampton Town Justice Court Monday after being arraigned and posting $5,000 bail. T.E. McMorrow

The alleged ringleader of a Montauk share house that was occupied by 18 people when East Hampton Town authorities raided it at 6 a.m. on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend was arraigned Monday on 46 charges in East Hampton Town Justice Court.

Most of the charges against Alina Gershman of New York City are misdemeanors, considered crimes. Ms. Gershman, 36, faces up to $72,000 in fines and six months in jail for each of them, Hope DeLauder, the town attorney prosecuting the case, told Justice Lisa R. Rana. She asked that bail be set at $5,000, saying that Ms. Gershman, who owns a condominium on West 36th Street in Manhattan, does not own the house in question and has no other connection to the town.

Justice Rana, after a prolonged conference with Ms. DeLauder and Edward Burke Jr., Ms. Gershman’s attorney, agreed with the amount, and warned Ms. Gershman that should she fail to appear in court in the future, a warrant would be issued for her arrest.

Also arraigned Monday was the owner of the house, at 13 Beech Hollow Court, Thomas Mahl. Mr. Mahl, 62, is facing 35 charges, mostly also misdemeanors. He was freed without bail, in recognition of his ties to the community. He owns another house in Montauk as well.

According to code enforcement officers, the house’s certificate of occupancy specifies four bedrooms. The town alleges that nine bedrooms were in use at the time of the raid.

The charges against Ms. Gershman and Mr. Mahl include change of use, lack of a building permit or certificate of occupancy for the extra bedrooms, and violations of the fire code, including lack of a smoke detector. In addition, Ms. Gershman faces 17 counts of illegally selling shares in a rental online, one for each of the renters found on the premises during the raid. She herself was the 18th person in the house that morning.

Interviewed outside the courthouse, Mr. Mahl claimed to have no knowledge of what Ms. Gershman was doing with the house. He had leased to her for the entire summer season, he said.

Mr. Mahl said on Monday that when he entered the house after the raid he discovered that the basement had been divided into separate sleeping areas, as had the pool house. “She turned the breakfast nook into a bedroom,” he said. “I’m totally surprised. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t make any money on it. I had nothing to do with it.” He declined to say how much Ms. Gershman had paid him. According to the town, she was charging $1,800 per room per weekend.

It is the second straight year that one of Mr. Mahl’s houses has been the target of an investigation and charges. Kimberly Geise, 47, who rented his house on Gates Avenue last summer, pleaded guilty in October to seven charges stemming from the sale of shares on Airbnb and Craigslist, and paid a fine of $3,500. Mr. Mahl was issued a warning but was not prosecuted. The town’s lead attorney, Michael Sendlenski, said this week, however, that “the owner is culpable” the second time around.

Mr. Sendlenski called the living conditions found during the raid “dangerously overcrowded.”

The 17 renters who were in the house at the time were arraigned as well. Each was charged with two counts, illegal purchase of shares and illegal occupancy.

Thirteen had their cases adjourned, with the promise that charges will be dismissed in six months if they stay out of trouble. They were Alic S. Andronikov, Nicole Arnot, Audrey M. Cady, William Chin, Elizabeth A. Cunningham, Pericles G. Ducas, Anya Estrov, Patrick Giganti, Alexander Goldberg, Eric J. Kubecka, Joan Osterwilder, Zivile Rezgyte, and Lillian B. Stoner. All are cooperating with the investigation, Ms. DeLauder said during their arraignments.

Two others, Kathryn L. Freund and Allison M. Heyden, have each agreed to perform eight hours of community service. The last two, Jean Chaffel and Lindsey R. Lefelhoc, will have their cases adjudicated on Nov. 21.

Ms. Gershman and Mr. Mahl, who is represented by Brian Matthews, are due back in court on Oct. 24.