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Owner of exploded Brentwood home faced previous housing violations

A home in Brentwood on 12 Prospect Dr,

A home in Brentwood on 12 Prospect Dr, which exploded earlier in the day. (Aug. 14, 2012) Credit: Chris Ware

The owner of the Brentwood home that exploded Tuesday was cited last year for operating an illegal rooming house and was fined $3,000 after pleading guilty in June to housing violations, Islip Town officials said.

An investigator from the town's Division of Code Enforcement documented 10 violations and issued a summons Sept. 26 to the property owner after a tenant in the house complained about an infestation of rats, town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said.

The owner, Marcel Richard, 62, said in a brief telephone interview from his Brooklyn office Tuesday afternoon that he had worked out a payment schedule with officials. "We went to court and they gave us time," he said.

He said he had sent his son out to the scene, but had not heard back from him.

"I have a headache," Richard said before ending the conversation.

Birbiglia said the town inspector characterized the home as a rooming house, and said it had been infested with rats and divided into eight rooms -- each with a deadbolt lock on the door.

She said the town also wrote on Oct. 6, 2011, to the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, which provided rental vouchers to some of the tenants, asking that the agency stop providing the subsidy because the owner lacked the ability to convert the home into rental properties.

Birbiglia said she was unsure about any action taken by the county.

Richard pleaded guilty in Suffolk 5th District Court on June 28, 2012, to six of the 10 counts -- multifamily dwelling without a permit, rental without a permit, a one-story addition in the rear of dwelling without a permit, conversion of a cellar into a habitual space, no smoke detector, no carbon monoxide detector -- and paid about $3,000 in fines, Birbiglia said.

The other four violations were dismissed. It was unclear whether changes to the house have been made following the plea.

Richard is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 13.

Frank Catalano, who works for AMS Restoration and Environmental Services in Deer Park, said he was supposed to inspect the house for water damage Tuesday. Pipes had burst in the house recently, he said, causing water damage and basement flooding.

Catalano, standing near the rubble of the home, said he had inspected the home before, and "the condition of the house was not the greatest."

It was "run-down" and "moldy," he said. "It wasn't in the best condition, not kept well cleaning-wise."

With William Murphy, Scott Eidler

and Laura Figueroa

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