Manhattan DA: Arrests Made In Widespread Building Inspector Bribery Scheme

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Prosecutors say landlords handed out cash to try to make housing violations go away as part of a sweeping bribery case involving property owners and building inspectors.

Fifty of the defendants were charged Tuesday in the case and arraignments were underway.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said $450,000 in bribes were made in connection with more than 106 residential and commercial properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

“Bribery schemes compromised two important city agencies and fair competition in our robust housing and real estate development markets,” Vance 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.”

Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said it all began as a routine investigation nearly two years ago, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

“Our investigation revealed a widespread network of corruption in the construction industry and among the city workers charged with keeping that industry safe,” Peters said in a statement. “We found that these 16 city employees, including several senior supervisory staff, took bribes to clear code violations, including some that presented real safety threats.”

“This investigation is stunning for the sheer breath of those charged and the extent to which the corruption infested our city institutions,” Peters told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer.

The bribe taking went all the way up to the Buildings Department’s chief of construction development in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Donald O’Connor, authorities told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

He accepted bribes from various people, including the owner of McHale’s Pub and Jack Dempsey’s Bar and Grill and a so-called “expediter,” David Weiszer, Vance said.

“On a near-daily bases, Weiszer would send a list of addresses of properties owned by his clients to one of the chiefs of development, allowing his clients to jump the line for inspections bypassing numerous proper channels,” Vance said.

“In exchange, it’s alleged, Weiszer bought the DOB chief and his wife a house, two sport utility vehicles, a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation, airline tickets, home renovations,” Vance added.

One landlord is charged with handing $600 in cash to an undercover officer posing as a housing inspector.

Another landlord is accused of giving the same undercover officer $2,500 in an envelope after asking how much it would cost to have violations removed.

Peters said 150 properties were reinspected because of the case, and violations were corrected or construction was stopped.

“The charged conduct, which spanned more than two years, caused dozens of building violations to go unaddressed, potentially endangering the safety of New Yorkers and it wrongfully attempted to evict tenants from their homes to make way for higher rents and larger illegal profits,” Peters said.

The city Buildings and Housing Preservation & Development departments note that they flagged the problems. They say several accused workers have resigned or been suspended.

The defendants are charged with felonies carrying from two to 15 years in jail. Prosecutors said more charges were expected, with Vance and  Peters adding that they would vigilantly watch the agencies to prevent future fraud, Kramer reported.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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