In what marks the largest single-day bribery crackdown in the history of the Department of Justice, over 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) face charges for allegedly accepting cash payments in exchange for "no-bid" contracts.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York disclosed that these employees are accused of demanding over $2 million in bribe money and awarding contracts exceeding $13 million.
The arrests unfolded across multiple states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Charges against the defendants range from solicitation and receipt of a bribe to extortion and conspiracy.
The accused individuals are purported to have received cash from contractors involved in NYCHA contracts, demonstrating a stark violation of the bidding process.
NYCHA's CEO, Lisa Bova-Hiatt, expressed the agency's "zero tolerance for wrongful and illegal activity," condemning the actions of those accused. She emphasised the betrayal of trust and vowed to collaborate with law enforcement to eliminate malfeasance within the Authority.
The alleged bribery scheme primarily targeted contracts related to repairs and construction work, occasions when outside contractors were enlisted by NYCHA.
The accused employees reportedly demanded and received cash payments either upfront or after the completion of the work. The amounts ranged from $500 to $2,000, depending on the contract's size.
US Attorney Damian Williams underscored the commitment to eradicate corruption within NYCHA, stating, "The culture of corruption at NYCHA ends today." The Department of Investigation recommended reforms to NYCHA's no-bid contracting process, an initiative accepted by the authority.
Homeland Security Investigations special agent Ivan Arvelo expressed concerns that Housing Authority residents may have been deprived of better services and programs due to these "lucrative, under-the-table deals."
The NYCHA, responsible for housing in 335 developments and receiving substantial federal funding annually, has been grappling with corruption allegations for years, with this recent episode further amplifying the challenges faced by the agency.