Wendell Walters, a former assistant commissioner for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation, is expected to plead guilty to corruption charges this afternoon for a scam that cost the NYCDHP hundreds of thousands of dollars — and lined the pockets of Walters and his cronies.
Walters, 49, and six others were indicted in October and hit with charges including racketeering, bribery, extortion, and money laundering for accepting bribes from private contractors in exchange for HPD contracts.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Walters and the other
defendants — Stevenson Dunn, Lee Hymowitz, Michael Freeman, Sergio
Benitez, Robert Morales, and Angel Villalona — raked in nearly $2
million in bribes since 2002.
The feds say Walters and a general contractor — identified only as
“John Doe” in the indictment — would meet at a driving range in the
Bronx, where Walters would have the contractor a slip of paper with a
number written on it. For example, if “250” was written on the envelope,
that meant Walters expected the contractor to cough up $250,000 in
exchange for a contract from the NYCDHP.
The contractor would then meet with Walters a few days later and start
making payments by putting cash — often times in excess of $25,000 —
in Walters’ golf bag.
During the same time period when the contractor was making the bribes,
he was awarded five NYCDHP contracts with an estimated value of over $10
Walters is expected to make his plea at 12:30 this afternoon. If
convicted of the most serious offense, Walters faces up to 20 years in
prison and would have to forfeit nearly $22 million in assets.