Nearly a dozen Department of Building employees, five Department of Housing Preservation and Development employees and 28 property managers were indicted today on multiple bribery and fraud charges around several boroughs, the Manhattan DA announced today.
The indictment was the result of a two year long investigation, which found DOB employees on various levels to have allegedly accepted bribes from property managers to sweep away complaints, Stop Work Orders and other violations in order to expedite projects.
The investigation began as the probe of a single DOB inspector, but quickly ballooned into a massive inquiry into the activities of dozens more, revealing more than $450,000 in alleged bribes to have changed hands.
In one case, defendant David Weiszer was apparently given unfettered access to high level DOB employees after allegedly bribing Brooklyn's Chief of Development with "approximately $200,000 for home mortgage payments, a Nissan Rogue SUV, a GMC Terrain SUV, and a Royal Caribbean cruise, as well as cash for airline tickets, home renovations, and other personal expenses." He allegedly also paid a DOB inspector around $70,000 in exchange for signing off on inspections, as well as various clerks, who allowed him to cut the line at the DOB's Brooklyn office.
— John Annese (@JohnAnnese) February 10, 2015
DOB Chief of Development in Manhattan, Donald O'Connor, is charged with accepting bribes from the owners of various bars, including McHale’s Pub, Jack Dempsey’s, Bourbon Street Bar & Grille and McGee’s Pub, in exchange for expedited appointments and dismissing complaints, many of which were allegedly never inspected. He is also charged with alerting the owners to undercover site safety visits, and coaching them on avoiding penalties.
In yet another instance mentioned in the complaint, DOB Supervisory Inspector Wilson Garcia was allegedly given a Puerto Rican vacation package by developer Gino Vitale in exchange for expunging complaints and alerting him to pending audits. In addition, Garcia has also been charged with weapons and cocaine charges found by the DOI and NYPD while executing a search warrant on his home and car.
As for HPD, a Brooklyn property manager is charged with paying Luis Soto, an HPD housing inspector, more than $20,000 to wipe away 476 violations at 13 of his properties in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Soto then allegedly paid an associate HPD inspector, Oliver Ortiz, to dismiss violations citing mice and roaches, missing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, inadequate lighting in building entrances and one defective hallway ceiling. Between that and several similar schemes, Soto and Ortiz allegedly dismissed 778 HPD violations for 24 Brooklyn properties in exchange for more than $41,000 in bribes.
"Bribery schemes compromised two important City agencies and fair competition in our robust housing and real estate development markets,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “Today’s cases demonstrate that the same surging demand that drives the pace of development can inspire the taking of shortcuts, and the taking of bribes. Working proactively with our partners at DOI and the NYPD, we are routing out corruption at all levels, and bringing those who abuse their positions of power to justice.”
Many of the suspects surrendered at the 1st Precint stationhouse in Lower Manhattan this morning, ABC7 reports. Several of the arrested HPD and DOB employees are reputed to have mob ties, and at least 10 of the property managers involved have ties to the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.