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Dozens of New York housing employees arrested on extortion charges over $2m bribery scheme

Dozens of New York City Housing Authority employees have been arrested in connection with a $2m federal corruption scheme.

The Department of Justice said it is the largest number of federal employees indicted in a bribery scam in a single day. According to a DoJ, more than seventy current and former NYCHA employees ran the scam between 2013 and 2023.

The suspects are accused of accepting payments totalling $2m in exchange for awarding $13m worth of no-bid NYCHA contracts. Sixty-six of the 70 defendants have already been arrested in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and North Carolina on charges of bribery and extortion.

“Instead of acting in the interests of NYCHA residents, the City of New York, or taxpayers, the 70 defendants charged today allegedly used their jobs at NYCHA to line their own pockets,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “NYCHA residents deserve better.”

The under-the-table payments averaged 10 or 20per cent of the contract value, usually between $500 and $2,000. Officials said NYCHA supervisors either asked for up-front payments to award the contracts or demanded a cut of the payments before supervisors signed off contracts once the work was finished.

One of the defendants, whose salary was $99,000 a year, earned more than $310,000 during the time that the scheme spanned, per the New York Post.

Mr Williams said the contractors felt pressured to pay the bribes because they wouldn’t be awarded the contracts otherwise. He said the contracts involved up to $10,000 in repairments in nearly a third of NYCHA buildings, or around 100.

NYCHA, the largest public housing authority in the United States, usually awards bidding contracts when the costs surpass $10,000.

Mr Williams encouraged contractors who fell victim to the scheme to come forward with information.

“Contractors who paid NYCHA superintendents should not be afraid to come forward and speak out,” Mr Williams said. “As the complaint today makes clear, many contractors have been brave enough to tell law enforcement about bribes NYCHA employees demanded of them. Going forward contractors should understand that NYCHA employees should not be asking for a single penny.”