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City Inspectors Accepted $450K in Bribes to Erase Code Violations, DA Says

By Gwynne Hogan | February 10, 2015 6:36pm
 The Manhattan District Attorney's office is charging 16 city employees with accepting $450,000 in bribes. 
The Manhattan District Attorney's office is charging 16 city employees with accepting $450,000 in bribes. 
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MANHATTAN — More than a dozen city employees accepted nearly half a million in cash bribes, luxury cars, mortgage payments and exotic cruises in exchange for erasing hundreds of outstanding code violations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, prosecutors said Tuesday.

In one case, prosecutors said, city officials conspired with a property owner to intimidate holdout tenants in a Bushwick building to vacate their apartments.

Charges were filed against about 50 people including five employees of Housing Preservation and Development, 11 employees of the Department of Buildings, as well as 22 private property managers and owners, six expeditors, two contractors and one engineer.

The accusations come after a two-year investigation, involving court-authorized wiretaps, inspection of financial and phone records, as well as physical surveillance, according to a joint statement from the Manhattan District Attorney's office and the city's Department of Investigation.

“Our investigation revealed a widespread network of corruption in the construction industry and among the city workers charged with keeping that industry safe,” said DOI Commissioner Mark Peters. “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.”

Property managers and owners bribed a number of HPD employees to remove hundreds of outstanding violations including missing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, unlawful bars covering fire escapes and mouse and roach infestations. Others paid off DOB employees in order to cut cumbersome lines, remove stop work orders and pass inspections. 

David Weiszer, who was acting as an unregistered expeditor, bribed multiple DOB employees with around $200,000 in mortgage payments, a Nissan Rogue SUV, a GMC Terrain SUV, a Royal Caribbean cruise and cash for airline tickets and home renovations, prosecutors said.

Brooklyn property manager Abraham Mertz is charged with paying Luis Soto, an HPD housing inspector $20,000 in bribes to erase 476 violations from 13 separate properties in Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, prosecutors said.

In another instance Soto and another HPD Inspector Barry Rice were paid off by Mertz to intimidate the tenants in one of Mertz' buildings into thinking the city had the authority to evict them.