NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign hasn’t yet returned tens of thousands of dollars in donations connected to criminally indicted ex-Buildings Department boss Eric Ulrich — even though a lawyer for the mayor’s campaign said four months ago that the contributions were in the process of being refunded.
The revelations about the Ulrich-tied contributions were contained in the latest public disclosure that Adams’ 2021 campaign released last week. The legally mandated disclosure covers campaign activity between July 14, 2023 and Jan. 12.
Ulrich, Adams’ first Buildings commissioner, was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in mid-September 2023 in five separate indictments alleging he accepted $150,000 in bribes from six co-defendants. In exchange, prosecutors allege Ulrich used his government powers to secure favors for his co-defendants, like expedited health inspections and city agency jobs.
Ulrich, a Republican who resigned from his Buildings post in November 2022 after the Manhattan DA probe first became publicly known, and his co-defendants jointly donated nearly $8,000 to Adams’ 2021 campaign. Relatives of Ulrich’s co-defendants gave an additional roughly $24,000.
On Sept. 25, 2023, in the wake of Ulrich being charged, Vito Pitta, Adams’ compliance lawyer, told the Daily News that the campaign had already days earlier “began the process” of returning all donations from the ex-Buildings head, his co-defendants and “identified family members of those indicted.” Pitta said at the time the campaign decided to return the donations because the mayor “has always set the highest standard” on which contributions to accept.
But the campaign’s latest disclosure shows it has yet to return any of the donations from Ulrich, his co-defendants or their relatives.
Asked this week why, Pitta pointed to the FBI’s investigation into whether the Turkish government funneled illegal foreign money into Adams’ 2021 campaign coffers.
“The refunds have been delayed by the federal inquiry, as were other campaign operations,” Pitta said in an email.
The Turkey probe did not become publicly known until FBI agents raided the home of Brianna Suggs, Adams’ top campaign fundraiser, on Nov. 2 — 38 days after Pitta initially said the money was being returned.
Pitta didn’t explain this week how the FBI probe delayed the refunds, given the lag, but said the campaign still “will be issuing refunds to Mr. Ulrich and his six co-defendants.” He didn’t provide a timeline.
Ulrich, who has pleaded not guilty along with his co-defendants, did not return a request for comment.
Adams’ campaign returned other donations in the latest reporting window, the new disclosure shows.
That includes refunds of contributions from Dwayne Montgomery, Shamsuddin Riza, Millicent Redick, Yahya Mushtaq and Shahid Mushtaq — a group of Adams supporters indicted last summer on criminal charges of allegedly orchestrating a straw donor scheme to boost the mayor’s 2021 run in hopes that would net them city contracts.
Another bundle of scrutinized donations the latest disclosure shows Adams’ campaign hasn’t returned came from 11 employees of KSK Construction, a Brooklyn contractor at the center of the FBI’s Turkey probe.
The KSK donations, totaling nearly $14,000, were all made on May 7, 2021. They came under scrutiny following revelations last year that the FBI is examining whether KSK, which is owned by Turkish nationals, participated in the alleged scheme to pump illegal foreign money into the mayor’s campaign.
Neither Adams nor anyone connected to his campaign have been accused of wrongdoing in the FBI probe.
The FBI probe also hasn’t produced any charges to date, and Pitta said that’s why the campaign opted not to return the KSK donations in the latest reporting period.
“Counsel has advised the campaign to preserve donations related to KSK, which have not been the subject of any criminal charges, while the inquiry is ongoing,” he said.