5 Are Charged in Alleged Schemes at Agency on Housing

The New York Times on June 5, 2012 released the following:


By the time Wendell B. Walters, a former top official at a New York City agency that builds affordable housing, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in March, he was known to be cooperating with the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors.

On Tuesday, details of what Mr. Walters has so far told the authorities began to emerge, as federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged five more people in bribery and kickback schemes involving the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, where Mr. Walters was an assistant commissioner until last year.

The charges provide further details about the $2.5 million in bribes and other benefits Mr. Walters has pleaded guilty to accepting, and also assert that he was not the only corrupt official with oversight of the city’s affordable housing program.

A criminal complaint charged one Brooklyn contractor, Panayiotis Papanicolaou, who had received contracts for several Department of Housing Preservation and Development projects, with paying $12,390 to send Mr. Walters on a honeymoon trip to Greece. A real estate developer, William B. Clarke, subsidized $50,000 worth of renovations to Mr. Walters’s home, according to a second criminal complaint, which charges that Mr. Walters promised to help Mr. Clarke’s company secure subsidies for an affordable housing project in the Bronx in return.

Prosecutors also charged a current department official, Michael Provenzano, 49, with receiving a $10,000 annual retainer between 2004 to 2009 from a contractor who wanted inside information from the agency. Mr. Provenzano supervised the inspectors who visit work sites and began providing the contractor with paperwork from the agency’s site inspections, prosecutors said.

This allowed the contractor to tailor his payrolls to match what the housing agency had observed at the job sites, prosecutors said. In fact, prosecutors said, laborers at the contractor’s job sites were routinely paid less than the required prevailing wage, and the remaining money was used to hire illegal immigrants.

Prosecutors also charged a housing official who left the agency earlier this year, Luis Adorno, 48, with participating in a kickback scheme.

The five criminal complaints unsealed against the various defendants on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn do not mention Mr. Walters by name. But several of the complaints mention a cooperating witness who appears to be Mr. Walters; the witness is described as someone who began working at the housing agency in 1998 and rose to the level of assistant commissioner before pleading guilty this year.

“Instead of fulfilling their charge to create affordable housing for deserving New Yorkers, these defendants looked for ways to line their own pockets,” the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Loretta E. Lynch, said in a statement. The five defendants were in court on Tuesday afternoon and entered pleas of not guilty, Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office, said.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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