Authorities say many of them surrendered at the 1st Precinct stationhouse in Lower Manhattan throughout the morning.
At least 11 Department of Buildings employees and five with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development are among those in custody, and several reportedly have ties with reputed mob figures. Other city employees are also in custody, including two buildings department borough chiefs, while the others arrested are property owners, managers and contractors. At least 10 have ties to Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community.
Authorities say the nearly two-year-long investigation began as an inquiry into the bribery of a single DOB inspector and utilized court-authorized wiretapping, analysis of financial and phone records, and surveillance to reveal evidence of approximately $450,000 worth of alleged bribes in numerous, distinct schemes between 16 DOB and HPD employees and 22 property managers and owners, six expeditors, two contractors and one engineer.
“Bribery schemes compromised two important city agencies and fair competition in our robust housing and real estate development markets,” District Attorney Cy Vance said. “Today’s cases demonstrate that the same surging demand that drives the pace of development can inspire the taking of shortcuts, and the taking of bribes. Working proactively with our partners at DOI and the NYPD, we are routing out corruption at all levels, and bringing those who abuse their positions of power to justice.”
According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, over the course of several years, 11 DOB employees, ranging in roles from clerks to chiefs, allegedly accepted bribes in Manhattan and Brooklyn in excess of $400,000. These DOB employees are charged with accepting monetary payments ranging from $200 to $3,000, and other benefits from property managers and expeditors (filing representatives registered by the DOB to act as middlemen between the Department and contractors, homeowners, and managing agents). In exchange, the DOB employees allegedly cleared complaints, Stop Work Orders, and violations, and expedited DOB inspections, enabling expeditors to bypass proper channels and deal directly with high-level DOB employees.
In one alleged scheme, authorities say David Weiszer, acting as an unregistered expeditor, is charged with bribing multiple DOB employees including a Chief of Development, an Inspector and three clerks. Beginning in September 2011, Weiszer allegedly sent a list of addresses of locations owned by his clients to the then-DOB Chief of Development for Brooklyn Construction, bypassing proper DOB channels, on a near daily basis.
Artan Mujko, then employed as a DOB Inspector, would inspect these addresses at the Chief of Development’s request, and invariably the buildings would pass inspection. The Chief of Development allegedly signed-off on Mujko’s inspections within the same day, using his supervisory position to carry out the scheme without detection.
In exchange, Weiszer is alleged to have paid the Chief of Development and his wife, Janelle Daly, bribes in the form of approximately $200,000 for home mortgage payments, a Nissan Rogue SUV, a GMC Terrain SUV, and a Royal Caribbean cruise, as well as cash for airline tickets, home renovations, and other personal expenses. Weiszer is similarly alleged to have paid Inspector Mujko more than $70,000 in cash bribes for signing-off on Weiszer’s necessary inspections, in addition to allegedly paying $2,000 to $3,000 at a time in cash to clerks Elaine Cutchin and Tamarah Allen, who allowed him to cut past people waiting in line at DOB’s Brooklyn office without showing the required credentials.
After he stopped working with the Chief of Development, Weiszer is alleged to have developed a new scheme in June 2014 involving Veronica Velez, a client manager at the New York City Department of Small Business Services. Weiszer is charged with bribing Velez to route Mujko to his properties, including those that fell outside of SBS’s mission, like residential buildings and synagogues, by promising to pay rent on her apartment. In turn, Weiszer then allegedly bribed Mujko to perform favorable inspections on his properties.