NYCHA’s $2M Bribery Scandal

( – In what is being called the largest bribery bust in Justice Department history, 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Most of them were arrested on the morning of Tuesday February 6. NYCHA is the nation’s biggest public housing authority and receives 1.5 billion in federal funding annually. An estimated one in seven New Yorkers lives in housing managed by NYCHA. The employees were participating in what some have characterized as a classic pay-to-play scheme.

They had the authority to simply choose a contractor for repairs or other essential contract work for the NYCHA properties as long as the contract was valued at $10,000 or less. After the contractor finished the work, the corrupt NYCHA employee would refuse to sign off on the work unless the contractors gave them a bribe worth 10 to 20 percent of the total value of the job. Without the approval they wouldn’t be paid, and the NYCHA employees told them they would not be approved for any more contracts if they didn’t give them the bribe they asked for.

One unnamed contractor refused to pay the bribe that the assistant supervisor at Seth Low Houses in Brooklyn, Joseph Fuller, demanded in 2021. Fuller had told the contractor that the usual 10% would no longer be enough and he would be raising his demands to 20%. He assured the contractor that others would be more than willing to pay the higher amount. After his refusal, the contractor was no longer given any work there.

Over the years, some of the corrupt NYCHA employees collected total amounts ranging as high as $508,000. Juan Mercado, a residential-building super, who is already out on a $100,000 bond, took in approximately $314,300 in bribes over his time working for NYCHA. As a requirement of his bond, he was required to surrender his 37 handguns and 13 rifles as well as his firearms license. Enormous as the takedown has been, there are indications that there will be more arrests in the case.

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