Dozens of current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority were arrested Tuesday in an alleged corruption scheme that set a new single-day record for total bribery charges doled out by the Department of Justice, prosecutors announced.
There were 70 public housing employees charged in total, with the Southern District of New York alleging city workers colluded to pocket more than $2 million in bribe money from contractors in exchange for lucrative contracts.
A sweeping indictment detailed the alleged bribes, which largely involved no-bid contracts in Manhattan and Brooklyn that don’t have to go through a public bidding process. Any contract that’s believed to be valued below $10,000 gets to bypass a public bidding process in New York.
Prosecutors allege that the arrested employees would demand cash bribes between $500 and $2,000 from contractors, depending on the size of the contract. Authorities claim this money was largely demanded in exchange for no-bid contracts, but was on other occasions demanded by NYCHA employees before they signed off on a completed job.
Jocelyn E. Strauber, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, said workers “used their positions of public trust and responsibility to pocket bribes in exchange for doling out no-bid contracts.” She added that Tuesday’s bribery bust is proof the city needs to reform how it handles 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,” she said in a statement.
In a statement of its own, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said those arrested were superintendents who “exploited the trust placed in them by the citizens of New York City.”
NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the country, receiving over $1.5 billion in federal funding annually and providing housing for one in every 17 New Yorkers.
The youngest defendant arrested Tuesday was 30-year-old Vincent Machado, and the oldest were 64-year-olds Angela Williams and Daniel Muniz.
Most defendants face a charge each of “Solicitation and Receipt of a Bribe,” which carries a prison sentence up to 10 years, and for “Extortion Under Color of Official Right,” which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Of the 70 facing charges, 66 were arrested Tuesday, prosecutors said. The New York Post reported that dozens of the defendants were hauled away in handcuffs Tuesday after federal agents raided NYCHA headquarters in Manhattan.