A federal corruption investigation led to the arrest of 70 employees from the New York City Housing Authority on Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams made a groundbreaking announcement, revealing the Department of Justice’s most significant bribery takedown in a single day.
The defendants stand accused of engaging in illicit behavior from 2013 to 2023. They are facing charges for allegedly accepting cash payments from contractors as a means to secure NYCHA contracts.
According to officials, NYCHA employees, both current and former, allegedly demanded a bribe of $2 million from contractors. In return, these employees promised to award over $13 million worth of work at NYCHA buildings. Contractors who refused to pay the kickback were reportedly excluded from receiving any work opportunities.
It has been revealed that accepting and extorting bribes for contractors has become a common practice among superintendents. Shockingly, this unethical behavior has been observed in almost 100 NYCHA buildings, spanning across all five boroughs. This means that approximately one-third of all NYCHA buildings have been affected by this corrupt activity.
NYCHA, also known as the largest public housing authority in the country, receives an impressive amount of over $1.5 billion in federal funding annually. With such substantial support, NYCHA plays a crucial role in providing homes for approximately 1 in 17 New Yorkers.
The 70 defendants have been accused of using their positions to enrich themselves.
Superintendents and assistant superintendents have significant influence when it comes to awarding small contracts for repair or construction work, according to officials. These contracts, which are valued at under $10,000, encompass crucial tasks such as plumbing and building repairs in NYCHA buildings.
The contracts are considered no-bid contracts because they do not have to undergo the process of competitive bidding. Instead, the superintendent or assistant superintendent has the authority to select the contractor.
After completing the work, the superintendent or assistant superintendent was required to give their approval so that they could receive payment from NYCHA. However, they are accused of demanding cash bribes in exchange for signing off on or approving the repairs.
According to officials, many contractors chose to pay these bribes because they feared that if they refused, the suspects would award the jobs to other individuals.
Dozens of NYCHA employees regularly engaged in this conduct, according to authorities.
Williams stated that contractors who have paid NYCHA superintendents should not be fearful of speaking up and sharing their experiences. He emphasized that many contractors have already displayed courage by reporting the bribes demanded by NYCHA employees to law enforcement. Williams urged contractors to remember that NYCHA employees should not be requesting any form of payment from them.
Residents of the Lower East Side’s LaGuardia Houses acknowledge that repairs were promptly addressed among the various complexes.
According to a resident of LaGuardia, if you file a complaint about your stove or fridge not working, the maintenance team will promptly come and inspect the issue.
“It’s definitely not something you see often around here,” remarked another resident when discussing the swift repairs.
A significant number of arrests took place at the Baisley Park Houses on Foch Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, among other NYCHA facilities in all five boroughs.
The Department of Investigation in the city revealed that the trust of public housing residents had been eroded due to alleged fraud, which resulted in increased costs for small repairs and the diversion of funds.
The corruption investigation roped in multiple agencies, including the city’s Department of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan.
The ongoing investigation by the U.S. attorney suggests that there might be additional arrests in the near future.