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Bribery Cases

These investigations include both ends of the spectrum – an employee who takes a bribe to do his or her job and the individual who bribes a City worker to get a job done. The devastating impact bribery has on the City is reflected in these following investigations.

  • DOI conducted a top-to-bottom review of DOB’s Cranes and Derricks division resulting in the indictment of a DOB assistant chief inspector, a crane company owner, the crane company, and a crane company employee, in a bribery scheme in which the inspector took money in exchange for providing the crane company owner with advance copies of the written City crane licensing exam and filed documents falsely indicating that the crane company employee had passed a practical exam when he had never taken it. In 2010, each of the defendants pleaded guilty. The crane company employee was sentenced to three years of probation. The now former inspector and the crane company owner were sentenced to between two and six years in prison and the company was ordered to pay $10,000, the amount of the bribes, in forfeiture.

    Based on the corruption uncovered by DOI, and as result of a DOI recommendation, DOB overhauled the testing process it administered for one of the crane operator’s licenses it issues, designating an experienced organization to create and administer the test. DOI’s investigation also led to changes in the City crane regulations.

 

  • In 2009, a former Assistant Civil Engineer with the City Department of Transportation (“DOT”), Uday Shah, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his role in a bribery scheme in which he and the former head of DOT’s Movable Bridges Division, Balram Chandiramani, obtained hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in bribes from the contractor reconstructing the Third Avenue Bridge when the company was negotiating with the City for payment. In exchange for the bribes, Shah and Chandiramani offered to use their respective positions within DOT to help the contractor obtain a favorable settlement. In December 2008, Chandiramani was sentenced to a year in federal prison.

 

  • A DOI and federal investigation uncovered that the tax assessors had concocted an insidious scheme that bilked the City of $160 million. One of the assessors died while charges were pending and 17 pleaded guilty. (Albert Schussler, who was charged as the prime participant in the scheme and was a former assessor who later worked as a tax consultant, died in January 2003.) Sentences ranged from home confinement to jail time. In sentencing these men and women, the judge stated that Mayor Bloomberg’s victim-impact letter submitted to the court on behalf of the City encouraged the judge to give the defendants tough sentences.

 

  • In another case with far-reaching implications, 19 buildings inspectors ignored Building Code regulations and expedited job approval in exchange for payoffs from plumbing contractors. Some of the defendants passed jobs without having inspected the work. Each inspector was charged with receiving bribes in violation of the Hobbs Act and indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Each was terminated from the DOB.



DOI’s focus is not just on the City employee but also on the indi
viduals who do business with the City and try to circumvent the system by bribing City officials.
 

  • Tips from City employees have played an integral role in some of our bribery investigations. Between January 2011 and March 2012, DOI has arrested more than 15 individuals in cases of bribing City employees to bypass City buildings or health regulations, obtaining contraband in the City jails, or garnering City contracts. In the cases involving Buildings and Health inspectors, the inspectors reported the bribe offers to DOI and we followed up in a covert capacity to determine if a criminal arrest was warranted. These investigations speak to the significance of how bribery cases undermine City operations and public safety.

 

  • A Brooklyn man and his father were charged in a bribery scheme to obtain a lease for a NYCHA commercial property. The two were charged after offering money to an individual they believed was a NYCHA employee, but who was actually an undercover DOI investigator. The son was sentenced to five months in federal prison in 2010 for his role and the father pleaded guilty in February 2011. 

 

  • In August 2009 a Brooklyn federal jury convicted Celstino Orta of bribery, and he was sentenced in November 2009 to three years in prison for his scheme to fix cases at the City Environmental Control Board (“ECB”). DOI’s undercover investigation, with assistance from the FBI and the City Department of Environmental Protection, began in the summer of 2007 after an ECB administrative law judge notified DOI that Orta had offered the judge Yankee tickets to resolve a Brooklyn building’s ECB violations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York prosecuted the case.

 

  • In 2008, DOI arrested over a dozen individuals on charges of paying bribes and giving unlawful gratuities to DOB inspectors who reported the bribe offers to DOI. In all of the cases, honest DOB employees reported to DOI that they had been offered illegal cash payments by contractors, homeowners and business owners.  In many cases, the DOB employees worked jointly with DOI investigators to gather the evidence required to make the arrests.  Most of the offers were initially made to induce DOB inspectors to overlook violations they discovered during inspections of commercial and residential properties throughout the City.


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