Two dozen individuals and 26 companies have been charged with a multimillion-dollar construction industry kickback scheme in an indictment revealed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Wednesday.
According to Bragg, the long-term investigation by the NYPD and the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI) took place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and alleges the defendants engaged in a corrupt bidding process for contracts over a period of more than eight years.
Prosecutors allege that 51-year-old Robert Baselice allegedly operated the kickback ring along with alleged associates, 58-year-old Louis Astuto, 43-year-old Paul Noto and 59-year-old Frank Camuso.
They were among the group of suspects who entered the New York County Criminal Courthouse in chains in a row on Jan. 18 and tried to hide their faces as they marched into a courtroom at 100 Center St.
“These firms are working on some of the most significant high-rise projects by New York firms in recent memory,” Bragg said. “I hope that this 83-count indictment sends a message that the Manhattan Attorney’s Office and our key partners in NYPD and DOI will not tolerate this type of bribery, corruption and fraud in Manhattan.”
Bragg alleges that as vice president, Baselice oversaw his company’s subcontractor bidding process and was responsible for providing truthful and accurate information to developers, which prosecutors say Baselice failed to do.
Instead, law enforcement officials said Baselice allegedly used his position to steal from his developer clients beginning in April 2013, allegedly stealing millions of dollars. The subcontractors paid more than $4,200,000 to Baselice and more than $2,800,000 to companies.
“Their scheme involves soliciting bids for work from complicit subcontractors who would raise their asking prices in order to generate funds to pay bribes to Baselice and his co-defendants. The developers weren’t the only victims here. Commercial bribery schemes like this are driving up construction costs in New York City, and these criminal schemes also deprive law-abiding subcontractors and their employees of a fair chance to bid and win contracts,” said DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Stauber.
According to Stauber, 14 of the defendants indicted on January 18 have a work license with the city’s building department and are being referred to the DOB for review.
Mike Vatter of the Local 79 Construction and General Building Laborers says the companies involved in the indictment are currently working on the NYPD’s impounded property in Brooklyn that caught fire late last year; However, Bragg said he was unwilling to comment on the matter.
Mike Prohaska, chief executive of Labourers’ Local 79, applauded Bragg for aggressively pursuing charges against 50 people, most notably Andrew Horan, the owner of Alba who was alleged to have participated in a scheme for over $2,750,000 Getting work – something that Prohaska says came as no surprise since the union fought Alba’s alleged exploitation.
“At the terminal warehouse, Alba has routinely withdrawn health care from Latin American demolition workers — los demolicionistas — during the COVID pandemic. Alba went so far as to announce to its entire workforce that it was offering cash payments to any workers who could provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of a colleague who deigned to file a workers’ compensation lawsuit against the company,” Prohaska said in an opinion.
“Construction workers and demolition workers should not have to wait for criminal charges before being protected in the workplace,” Prohaska added.
Developers accused in the court documents reportedly had roles in notable construction projects including 11 Stone Street (the FiDi Hotel), 12 East 48th Street (Hilton Club The Central at 5th New York), 101 West 28th Street (the Remy) and 189 Bowery (the CitizenM New York Bowery Hotel).