By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN — Authorities have seized $26 million from bank accounts connected to six individuals charged with profiting from an $80 million CityTime kickback scheme, the Department of Investigation said Tuesday.
The kickback money, which was allegedly stolen from taxpayers, will be frozen indefinitely while the contractors face wire fraud and money laundering charges in Manhattan's U.S. District Court.
An additional $1 million stored in safe-deposit boxes by the accused scam artists was also recovered, the DOI said.
The six who were charged and arrested on Dec.15 allegedly created shell companies to launder funds using "the city as their own personal cash cow," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. In an ironic twist, the project the funds were allegedly stolen from, the controversial $740 million CityTime project, is an automated payroll system designed to prevent fraud by city employees.
The consultants allegedly misrepresented payroll services that were not performed and billed the city for them.
The DOI would not release a breakdown of money seized per individual charged in the fraud.
Two subcontractors involved in the project, D.A. Solutions and Prime View, are reportedly at the center of the federal investigation.
CityTime project consultants Mark Mazer, Dmitry Aronshtein, Victor Natanzon, Scott Berger have been charged in connection to the scandal. Svetlana Mazer and Larisa Medzon were charged as their associates.
They all face up to 20 years in prison, plus hefty fines ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 if convicted.
Former city payroll Chief Joel Bondy, who oversaw the project, resigned from his post after the scandal was made public. He has not been charged in connection with the crime.