AC Installer Keeps His Cool as Judge Acquits in Mercury Poisoning Case

Yuriy Kruk (center) walks through the courthouse with defense attorneys Marvyn Kornberg (right) and Dmitriy Shakhnevich (left) after Justice Richard Buchter acquitted him at a bench trial.  Eagle  photo by David Brand.

Yuriy Kruk (center) walks through the courthouse with defense attorneys Marvyn Kornberg (right) and Dmitriy Shakhnevich (left) after Justice Richard Buchter acquitted him at a bench trial. Eagle photo by David Brand.

By David Brand

A Rego Park HVAC owner charged with attempted assault after Jamaica Estates homeowners found toxic mercury in a cooling system he installed was acquitted after a bench trial by Justice Richard Buchter Monday.

Yuriy Kruk, who owns the business A+ HVAC and Kitchen Corporation, stayed cool as Justice Buchter delivered his brief “not guilty” verdict at the end of a two-week non-jury trial.

“The evidence showed that mercury was found in a unit in the second floor and the attic,” Buchter said. “However other workmen had access to the second floor unit for hours and the first floor vent was vulnerable to tampering and contamination … Under these circumstances,” Buchter continued, “the court is compelled to render a verdict of not guilty.”

After the trial ended, Kruk’s defense attorney Marvyn Kornberg said he and his client were never concerned about a guilty verdict. Kruk, in fact, said he spent the weekend skiing at Stratton Mountain in Vermont.

“That’s because he knew he was innocent,” Kornberg said.

Kruk said he plans to go back to work and that the trial would not hurt his business installing heating and cooling systems.

“I have had thousands of support calls,” Kruk said. “I was overwhelmed with support and surprised by how many people called and offered to testify to help.”

According to the charges, Jamaica Estates resident Roman Pinkhasov hired A+ HVAC and Kitchen Corporation to repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning in his home in 2015. Prosecutors said Pinkhasov and his family members complained the systems were not functioning properly. Kruk installed a new unit in July 2015.

On multiple occasions, Pinkhasov and his wife Olga Yurgaueva found drops of silver liquid on the floor and in vents where Kruk had been working, according to the charges.

Pinkhasov and his wife called 911 and the FDNY’s Hazardous Materials Unit recovered more mercury from the first-floor vent and other parts of the AC system. Pinkhasov, Yurgaueva and their son all tested positive for toxic levels of mercury and complained of symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning, including joint pain and headaches, according to the charges.

HVAC business owner Yuriy Kruk awaits a verdict by Justice Richard Buchter in Queens Criminal Court Monday. Pool photo by Ellis Kaplan.

HVAC business owner Yuriy Kruk awaits a verdict by Justice Richard Buchter in Queens Criminal Court Monday. Pool photo by Ellis Kaplan.

Kruk was charged with second-degree attempted assault as well as first- and fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment.

Buchter, however, said the circumstantial evidence presented in the bench trial did not prove Kruk’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We respect the court’s verdict,” said Assistant District Attorney Gregory Pavlides, the Economic Crimes Bureau Chief.

Pinkhasov said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the verdict.

Kornberg mocked prosecutors’ arguments, which included references to Russian President Vladimir Putin recent assassinations linked to the Russian government.

“You know the people are scraping the bottom of the barrel when they sum up and have to ask questions about Putin and the KGB,” Kornberg said. “The people have to investigate a whole lot better than they did in this case before they bring charges.”

Kornberg said he chose a bench trial instead of a jury trial because he did not want emotions to influence decision-making.

“Emotions should never come into play [during a trial],” Kornberg said. “And they could with homeowners in Queens County.”