Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn housing inspector, chief of development and several clerks implicated in vast DOB bribery scheme

Building Managers Also Accused of Giving Bribes to Remove Violations

February 12, 2015 By Jennifer Peltz Associated Press
People chained together arrive for arraignment in a bribery scandal on Tuesday in New York. City inspectors, landlords and contractors formed a 50-person network that exchanged $450,000 in payoffs to get safety violations dismissed, procure phony eviction orders and get favorable and sometimes nonexistent inspections, authorities said Tuesday. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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City inspectors, landlords and contractors formed a 50-person network of graft that exchanged $450,000 in payoffs to get safety violations dismissed, procure phony eviction orders and get fast, favorable and sometimes nonexistent inspections, authorities said Tuesday.

Because of the schemes, a Brooklyn synagogue started building an addition with a cracked wall supported by twisted steel beams, tenants were improperly threatened with eviction so their landlords could raise rents and property owners weren’t immediately made to fix problems ranging from a defective hallway ceiling to missing smoke detectors, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and city Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Mark Peters said.

The defendants include 11 Department of Buildings (DOB) workers, five Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) employees and one worker at the city Department of Small Business Services.  Among them are Luis Soto, a Brooklyn HPD housing inspector; DOB clerks Elaine Cutchin and Tamarah Allen; and Janelle Daly, a buildings department filing representative and the wife of a former DOB chief of development for Brooklyn Construction.  The former DOB chief was not named in the indictment.

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According to the indictment, Daly and her husband got about $200,000 or more in payoffs — including home mortgage payments, an SUV and an $8,000 cruise — just from one expediter, or middleman, who helped shepherd matters through the department, according to court documents

In a Brooklyn scheme outlined by Vance, between June 2014 and August 2014, defendant Abraham Mertz, a Brooklyn property manager, allegedly paid Housing Inspector Soto more than $20,000 in bribes to remove 476 violations at 13 separate properties in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.  In a similar scheme, between July 18, 2014, and August 8, 2014, defendant Robert Cadoch, another Brooklyn property manager, is also alleged to have paid Soto $6,000 in bribes to remove 96 violations at three separate properties in Bedford-Stuyvesant. In each instance, the government contends, Soto turned to Oliver Ortiz, a supervising HPD Inspector, to falsify entries in HPD’s internal system.

“I would like to commend DA Vance and his staff for conducting an investigation to expose this extensive and unacceptable betrayal of the public trust by city government employees,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a released statement. 

“The actions disadvantaged and harmed tenants in all these buildings and public confidence” in the agencies supposed to oversee them, Vance said.

Some 150 properties have been reinspected because of the case, and violations were corrected or construction was stopped, Peters said. No one was evicted due to the bogus orders to vacate in the name of safety, authorities said.

Attorney information for Daly and some other defendants wasn’t immediately available. Attorneys for some of the other inspectors declined to comment on the charges. 

“I’m outraged at what this investigation has uncovered,” Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said in a statement.

The case follows several prosecutions surrounding construction industry practices and oversight amid a building boom in the city in recent years. In 2010, a city construction crane inspector pleaded guilty to taking bribes — and a crane company to paying them — to fake safety inspections and licensing exam certifications. Another crane inspector was convicted in 2012 of falsely claiming he’d checked cranes when he hadn’t.


-Charisma L. Troiano, Esq., Brooklyn Daily Eagle, contributing

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