70 Employees Charged with Bribery and Extortion in Unprecedented NY Corruption Case

By: Chris Gorrie | Published: Feb 13, 2024

In a monumental move, prosecutors unveiled an unprecedented crackdown on corruption within the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), resulting in the charging of 70 current and former employees with bribery and extortion offenses. 

This action stands as the largest number of federal bribery charges in a single day in the history of the Department of Justice (DOJ), reflecting a significant blow to corruption within a critical public institution.

66 of 70 Defendants Have Been Arrested

The announcement was made by Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, and other key figures, marking a decisive step in holding those abusing their public service positions accountable. 

A close-up image of a man’s hand handcuffed behind his back.

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Of the 70 defendants, 66 were arrested in a coordinated effort spanning New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Those arrested in the New York area are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judges in Manhattan federal court later today.


Charges Against NYCHA Employees Reveal Pattern of Abuse

Attorney General Garland emphasized the Justice Department’s commitment to prosecuting individuals who exploit their roles for personal enrichment, considering such actions serious violations of public trust. 

Attorney General Garland speaking behind a podium at a press conference.

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The charges against the NYCHA employees reveal a pattern of abuse wherein these individuals allegedly accepted cash payments from contractors in exchange for awarding NYCHA contracts. This corruption undermines the very essence of public service and erodes public trust in vital institutions.

Pervasive Bribery Network Revealed Under Broken System

DOI Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber highlighted the significance of these charges, stating that the accused NYCHA employees exploited their positions to pocket bribes, emphasizing the need for substantial reforms in NYCHA’s no-bid contracting process. 

Two people exchanged U.S. cash bills.

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The charges bring attention to a pervasive bribery network thriving under a system that allowed employees to award contracts without multiple bids if the cost was under $10,000. The accused allegedly demanded cash payments ranging from $500 to $2,000, or more, from vendors in exchange for these contracts, totaling over $2 million in illicit payments related to contracts exceeding $13 million.

Corruption Jeopardizes Housing Programs and Well-Being

The NYCHA, as the largest public housing authority in the U.S., plays a crucial role in providing housing for 1 in 17 New Yorkers, receiving over $1.5 billion in federal funding annually. 

A house in the process of being constructed.

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The alleged corruption not only jeopardizes the effectiveness of housing programs but also risks residents’ well-being by diverting funds intended for maintenance and improvements.

Multiple Federal Agencies Involved in the Investigation

The involvement of multiple federal agencies, including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD OIG), and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG), underscores the gravity of the charges. 

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HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo highlighted the impact of corruption on NYCHA residents, emphasizing the need for justice in protecting the city’s residents.


Bribery Schemes Can Waste Millions of Dollars

HUD OIG Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis underscored the severe consequences of pay-to-play bribery schemes, emphasizing their potential to waste millions of dollars and compromise living conditions for over 200,000 residents. 

A headshot of HUD OIG Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis.

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development/Wikimedia Commons

The charges not only address the immediate harm caused by corruption but also aim to prevent and detect similar schemes in the future.


Labor Office Committed to Prosecuting Corruption and Fraud

DOL-OIG Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone affirmed the commitment to investigating corruption and fraud, particularly when it involves matters within the jurisdiction of the Office of Inspector General.

A person sitting at a desk with paperwork, glasses, and a calculator app on a smartphone. The document they are looking at has “scam” written on it in pen.

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The collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies, along with the support of NYCHA’s senior executive leadership, demonstrate a unified front against corruption.


NYCHA Employees Compromised Integrity of Contracting Process

The defendants, who were all NYCHA employees during the relevant period, are accused of demanding and receiving cash payments from contractors, thereby compromising the integrity of the contracting process. 

A contractor working on a window’s interior in a house.

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The charges represent a serious breach of public trust, and the prosecutors aim to bring those responsible to justice.


OCDETF Continues to Combat Corruption in Public Institutions

The significance of this operation extends beyond individual prosecutions; it serves as a testament to the ongoing efforts to combat corruption through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. 

U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force logo.

United States Department of Justice/Wikimedia Commons

OCDETF’s multi-agency, intelligence-driven approach aims to identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal organizations, emphasizing the gravity of corruption within public institutions.


Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lead Prosecutions

The charges are being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit, with Assistant U.S. Attorneys leading the prosecutions. 

An attorney sits at a desk working on a laptop with a hammer and gavel on the desk in the foreground.

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The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, as the legal process unfolds.


Historic Crackdown on 70 NYCHA Employees Sends Message

The charges against 70 NYCHA employees underscore the imperative to address corruption within public institutions rigorously. 

A view of New York City from the Empire State Building. A nearly endless stretch of buildings sprawls out on either side of a river.

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This historic crackdown serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing commitment to transparency, accountability, and the preservation of public trust. The accused individuals will face the legal consequences of their alleged actions, marking a pivotal moment in the fight against corruption within critical public services.