Seventy current and former New York City Employees charged With bribery and extortion offenses

In the largest number of federal bribery charges announced on a single day in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice, 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been charged with allegedly accepting cash payments from Contractors in exchange for awarding NYCHA Contracts.

Government Officials involved in announcing the charges included:

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Merrick B. Garland, the Attorney General of the United States; Jocelyn E. Strauber, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”); Ivan J. Arvelo, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”); Rae Oliver Davis, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (“HUD OIG”); and Jonathan Mellone, the Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (“DOL-OIG”).

The aforementioned public officials announced the unsealing of bribery and extortion charges against 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”). Sixty-six of the 70 defendants were arrested [on the] morning [of February 6, 2024] in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and North Carolina.

Defendants who were arrested in the New York area [were] scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judges Stewart D. Aaron, Sarah L. Cave, Valerie Figueredo, Sarah Netburn, Katharine H. Parker, Gary Stein, and Ona T. Wang in Manhattan federal court [on the day the indictments were announced].

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:

“Instead of acting in the interests of NYCHA residents, the City of New York, or taxpayers, the 70 defendants charged today allegedly used their jobs at NYCHA to line their own pockets. This action is the largest single-day bribery takedown in the history of the Justice Department. NYCHA residents deserve better.

“My Office is firmly committed to cleaning up the corruption that has plagued NYCHA for far too long so that its residents can be served with integrity and have the high-quality affordable homes that they deserve. The culture of corruption at NYCHA ends today.”

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said: “The Justice Department will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who abuse their positions in public service to enrich themselves. The crimes alleged in this case are serious violations of the public trust, and I am grateful to the agents and our partners across government who worked on this case, and to the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York for their tireless efforts to root out corruption.”

DOI Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber said: “As charged, these 70 current and former NYCHA supervisors and other staff used their positions of public trust and responsibility to pocket bribes in exchange for doling out no-bid contracts. The extensive bribery and extortion alleged here calls for significant reforms to NYCHA’s no-bid contracting process, which DOI has recommended and NYCHA has accepted. I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and our federal law enforcement partners for their commitment to protecting scarce public resources intended to maintain public housing, and to hold accountable public servants who abuse their authority, and NYCHA’s senior leadership for its cooperation in this important investigation.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said: “These 70 defendants are accused of demanding kickbacks and bribes for access to no-bid contracts and lucrative, under-the-table deals. Make no mistake, this alleged pervasive corruption had the biggest impact on NYCHA residents themselves, who may have been cheated out of better services and programs. I commend the outstanding work of HSI New York’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force for today’s historic operation. As one of the largest investigative agencies, the public can rest assured: Homeland Security Investigations will pursue all avenues of justice for the people of this great city.”

HUD OIG Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis said: “The pay-to-play bribery schemes alleged in the complaints unsealed today waste millions of dollars and risk residents staying in unacceptable living conditions. The alleged conduct identified during this investigation harms the effectiveness of housing programs that support more than 200,000 residents. It also poses a significant risk to the integrity of the HUD rental assistance programs that support housing assistance in New York City and erodes the trust of NYCHA residents in HUD’s programs. We will continue our work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to prevent and detect these and other schemes.”

DOL-OIG Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone said: “An important part of our mission is to investigate corruption and fraud involving matters within the jurisdiction of the Office of Inspector General. We are committed to working closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who exploit governmental programs and the American workers.”

According to the allegations in the Complaints and publicly filed documents in these cases, NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the country, providing housing to 1 in 17 New Yorkers in 335 developments across the City and receiving over $1.5 billion in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development every year.

When repairs or construction work require the use of outside contractors, services must typically be purchased via a bidding process. However, at all times relevant to the Complaints, when the value of a contract was under a certain threshold (up to $10,000), designated staff at NYCHA developments could hire a contractor of their choosing without soliciting multiple bids.

This “no-bid” process was faster than the general NYCHA procurement process, and the selection of the contractor required the approval of only the designated staff at the development where the work was to be performed.

The defendants, all of whom were NYCHA employees during the time of the relevant conduct (emphasis added) demanded and received cash in exchange for NYCHA contracts by either requiring contractors to pay upfront in order to be awarded the contracts or requiring payment after the contractor finished the work and needed a NYCHA employee to sign off on the completed job so the contractor could receive payment from NYCHA.

As alleged, the defendants typically demanded approximately 10% to 20% of the contract value — between $500 and $2,000 depending on the size of the contract — but some defendants demanded even higher amounts.

In total, these defendants demanded over $2 million in corrupt payments from contractors in exchange for awarding over $13 million worth of no-bid contracts.

The source for the foregoing narrative is:

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/70-current-and-former-nycha-employees-charged-bribery-and-extortion-offenses

The map accompanying this story shows the developments affected by the alleged conduct.

If you believe you have information related to bribery, extortion, or any other illegal conduct by NYCHA employees, please contact OIGNYCHA@doi.nyc.gov or (212) 306-3356. If you were involved in such conduct, please consider self-disclosing through the SDNY Whistleblower Pilot Program at USANYS.WBP@usdoj.gov.

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The names of the defendants, the charges against them, their ages, and their cities and states of residence are set forth below this story narrative.

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of DOI, HSI, HUD OIG, and DOL-OIG, which work together collaboratively as part of the HSI Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, as well as the special agents and task force officers of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Mr. Williams thanked the New York City Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service for their assistance with [the February 6] arrest operations.

Mr. Williams also expressed appreciation for the cooperation and support of NYCHA’s senior executive leadership and thanked NYCHA Federal Monitor Bart Schwartz for his assistance with the investigation.

These prosecutions are part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles criminal organizations using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

These cases are being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jerry J. Fang, Jacob R. Fiddelman, Meredith Foster, Catherine Ghosh, and Sheb Swett are in charge of the prosecutions.

The charges contained in the Complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Editor’s Note:

Each listing below includes the name of the defendant, his or her age, where they are or were resident, and charges/potential prison term(s)

James Baez, 58 years, Valley Stream, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Selwyn Barley, 61 years. Brooklyn, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

x

Gwendolyn Bell, 38 years. Baldwin, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years

Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Nymiah Branch, 44 years, Elmont, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Marc Buckner, 54 years, Stroudsburg, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Patrick Butler, 58 years, Brooklyn, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Roberto Cartagena, 48 years, Union City, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Vernon Chambers, 45 years, Brooklyn, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Rigoberto Charriez, a/k/a “Ricky”, 34 years, Toms River, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Hector Colon, 45 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Michael Davis, 54 years, Groton, CT, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Victor De Los Santos, 54 years, Bushkill, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years. Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Mauricio Escobar. 55 years, East Elmhurst, NY. Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Jose Espinal, 57 years, Howard Beach, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Joseph Fuller, 42 years, Brooklyn, NY, Conspiracy to Solicit and Receive a Bribe: 5 years, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Manuel Garcia, 59 years, Lecanto, FL, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Tuesdai Gaskin, 57 years, Staten Island, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Corey Gilmore, 45 years, Garnerville, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Lateisha Harley, 48 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Joy Harris, 48 years, Bushkill, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Jose Hernandez, 57 years, New York, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Veronica Hollman, 47 years, Brooklyn, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Deshon Hopkins, 47 years, Bethlehem, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years. Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Nena Huntley, 36 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Michael Johnson, 58 years, Staten Island, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

George Kemp, 49 years, Irvington, NJ, Conspiracy to Solicit and Receive a Bribe: 5 years, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Jaime Lan, a/k/a “Jimmy”, 57 years, Stewartsville, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Dexter Lino, 51 years, Rockaway Park, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Nirmal Lorick, 58 years, South Richmond Hill, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Tara Lucas, 50 years, Linden, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Vincent Machado, a/k/a Vincent Arcelay, 30 years, New York, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Marlon Mackey, 51 years, Jamaica, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Danny Matos, 48 years, Effort, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Nakia McCoy, 49 years, Brooklyn, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Erik McCreary, 55 years, Far Rockaway, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Henry McPhatter, 44 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Joacim Mendez, 47 years. Milford, CT, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Juan Mendez, 52 years, Stroudsburg, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Juan Mercado, 49 years, West Babylon, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

James Miller, 55 years, Stroudsburg, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Daniel Muniz, 64 years, Long Island City, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Denise Newby-Bovian, 54 years, New York, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Alexis Nieves, 41 years, Stratford, CT, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Raymond Nunez, 56 years, Glendale, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Evelyn Ortiz, 55 years, Freeport, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Brett Owens, 49 years, New York, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Orlando Pardo, 56 years, Maywood, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Jorge Perez, 54 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Curtis Priester, 58 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Eddie Quetell, 57 years, Philadelphia, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Carmen Rivera, 53 years, Long Pond, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Jaime Rivera, 50 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years., Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

John Rivera, 56 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years. Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Herbert Rosa, 45 years, New York, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years. Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Dwarka Rupnarain, 63 years, Middletown, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Chrisie Salter, 46 years, Brooklyn, NY, Conspiracy to Solicit and Receive a Bribe: 5 years, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years. Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years. Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Clarence Samuel, 53 years, Irvington, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Tanisha Sands, 51 years, Brooklyn, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Carolyn Scott, 58 years, East Stroudsburg, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Garth Small, 55 years, Mount Vernon, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Charles Starks, 57 years, Elmont, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Elizabeth Tapia, 54 years, Pocono Summit, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Alex Tolozano, 57 years, Maywood, NJ, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Luis Torres, 38 years. Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Segundo Torres, 56 years, Blakeslee, PA, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Frankie Villanueva, 51 years, Bronx, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Lindsay Wade, 53 years, Brooklyn, NY. Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Angela Williams, 64 years, Fayetteville, NC, Conspiracy to Solicit and Receive a Bribe: 5 years Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years, Destruction of Evidence: 20 years, False Statements: 5 years

Willie Williams, 60 years Staten Island, NY, Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years, Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

Calvin Wright, 52 years, Brooklyn, NYm Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe: 10 years Extortion Under Color of Official Right: 20 years

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaints and the description of the Complaints set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described therein should be treated as an allegation.

Editor’s Note: The New York-based professional staff for the prosecutors, the contacts for this story — updated on February 6, 2024 — were listed as Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff, (212) 637-2600. CapitolBeatOK.com adapted the material for presentation here.