Seventy former and current employees of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been arrested for their involvement in a decade-spanning, $2 million bribery and extortion scheme.
The operation marks the largest single-day bribery crackdown in the Department of Justice’s history.
66 of the 70 defendants were apprehended on Tuesday morning across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and North Carolina, according to the Southern District of New York.
The scheme saw these individuals demanding bribes from contractors in exchange for lucrative NYCHA contracts, impacting about one-third of NYCHA’s 335 developments.
The accused, all former NYCHA employees, allegedly demanded kickbacks ranging from 10% to 20% of contract values, with some individuals requesting even larger sums, according to authorities.
Authorities highlighted cases where kickbacks significantly exceeded six figures, with some of the most serious allegations directed at a 47-year-old female employee for aiding in the extortion of contractors.
One case involved a co-conspirator asking Angela Williams, a NYCHA employee, to facilitate the process for a company by merely signing off documents.
Over a decade, many employees collectively accepted over $2 million in bribes related to contracts worth $13 million.
Officials report that contractors who refused to pay kickbacks were excluded from further work opportunities.
NYCHA, as the nation’s largest public housing authority, receives annual federal funding exceeding $1.5 billion. This organization provides housing to 1 in every 17 New York residents.
The breadth of the corruption extended across all five boroughs, affecting a large portion of the city’s public housing developments.
United States Attorney Damian Williams condemned the actions of the defendants, asserting that they prioritized personal gain over the welfare of NYCHA residents and the city’s taxpayers.
Williams, in a statement, said, “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.”
He added, “Contractors who paid NYCHA superintendents should not be afraid to come forward and speak out. As the complaint today makes clear, many contractors have been brave enough to tell law enforcement about bribes NYCHA employees demanded of them. Going forward contractors should understand that NYCHA employees should not be asking for a single penny.”
The arrests included figures such as Nirmal Lorick, who allegedly secured $153,000 in illicit gains from no-bid contracts, and Jose Hernandez, accused of soliciting around $95,000 in bribes. The crackdown also led to the arrest of DeShon Hopkins, a superintendent at East Harlem’s Taft Houses.
While city contracts remain valued at approximately under $10,000, local development managers possess the authority to grant them without the necessity of undergoing the public bidding process.
Jocelyn Strauber, commissioner of the Department of Investigation, said “[The suspects] used their positions of public trust and responsibility to pocket bribes in exchange for doling out no-bid contracts.”
The city oversight agency has proposed that NYCHA streamline its small project procedure by utilizing a pre-approved roster of contractors with predefined cost estimates for commonly required services.
They also recommend implementing anti-bribery training for both superintendents and contractors.
The individuals taken into custody were arrested by a joint effort involving the city Department of Investigation, Homeland Security, and the Office of the Inspector General for Housing and Urban Development.