A pretty good government corruption story out of the federal prosecutors’ office in Brooklyn: The director of construction at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been arrested for taking annual $10,000 bribes over 5 years to provide inside information to contractors seeking city work.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn says Michael Provenzano, who made $96,000 last year and oversaw a hug construction portfolio, and a former HPD official, Luis Adorno, were arraigned yesterday in Brooklyn, along with three real estate developers. The scheme not only allowed developers to get contracts, but also let them ignore prevailing wage rules and pay their employees less than required by the city.
Adorno, formerly an inspections supervisor with HPD, allegedly solicited a $100,000 bribe from a general contractor in return for Adorno backing him on a bid. Developer William Clarke, who worked for the Great American Construction Corp. which had millions in HPD jobs, is accused of paying $50,000 in residential renovations for the home of a former HPD assistant commissioner.
Peter Papanicolaou, the president of JF Contracting and a past winner of civic awards, allegedly sent that HPD official on a $12,000 paid honeymoon to Greece. “I have no idea about that,” one of his employees said this afternoon. Placido Rodriguez allegedly took $300,000 in kickbacks from a general contractor on a Bronx project.
The arrests grew out of an investigation into HPD contracting that netted the arrest in October of Wendell Walters, the chief of new construction at the agency. In addition, six real estate developers were charged with bribery and conspiracy in connection with a scheme that netted them $2 million in kickbacks and bribes since 2002. Taxpayers got ripped off to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in overpayments on projects in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, the feds said.
“These arrests are the result of our continuing pursuit of corruption within the
publicly-funded affordable housing sector,” says United States Attorney Loretta Lynch. “Instead of fulfilling their charge to create affordable housing for deserving New Yorkers, these defendants looked for ways to line their own pockets.”