5 Are Charged in Alleged Schemes at Agency on Housing

June 6, 2012

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

“By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN

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.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Luis Enrique Ramirez, Former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspector, Sentenced to 204 Months in Federal Prison

July 6, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas on July 6, 2011 released the following:

“Former Customs and Border Protection Inspector Sentenced to Lengthy Prison Term

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector Luis Enrique Ramirez, 39, has been sentenced to a total of 204 months in federal prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Ramirez, of Brownsville, Texas, was convicted in March 2011, following his guilty plea to conspiring to transport certain aliens within the United States, bringing in a certain aliens into the United States for private financial gain, accepting bribes in his capacity as a government official and possessing with intent to distribute a quantity exceeding five kilograms of cocaine.

Ramirez, 38, of Brownsville, pleaded guilty on March 3, 2011. At that time, Ramirez admitted that between November 2007 and January 2009, while employed as a CBP officer, he was a member of a drug trafficking organization. He admitted that on Dec. 17, 2008, he allowed a co-conspirator to drive a vehicle laden with 12 Kilograms of cocaine into the United States via a vehicle primary inspection lane he was manning at the time. Ramirez also admitted that between July 2008 through January 2009, he conspired with others to bring illegal aliens into the United States and to transport them furthering their illegal presence in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain and accepting bribes to influence him in his official capacity as a CBP officer.

Ramirez received the statutory maximum 120 months for each of the two counts of alien smuggling counts, the statutory maximum of 180 months for the bribery conviction, as well as 204 months for drug smuggling. All sentences are to run concurrently. Following his prison term, he will also serve 10 years of supervised release. As part of his sentence, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen also entered a money judgment in the amount of $500,000 against the defendant, a sum representing the proceeds of Ramirez’s criminal activity, to the United States.

Ramirez’s sentence includes upward adjustments or increases in his calculated sentencing guideline range because he recruited other individuals, he was a public official, he received more than one bribe, he received more than $5,000 in bribes and he was in a high level or sensitive position and used his position as a public official to facilitate the illegal entry persons and narcotics into United States.

Ramirez has been in custody since his arrest where he will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future where he will serve out his sentence.

This case was investigated by agents of the FBI’s Brownsville Resident office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General and CBP – Office Of Internal Affairs. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Castro.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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