A corruption sting that led to headlines and the indictments of 50 city officials and the business people who bribed them has resulted in only a handful of prison sentences.
And one of the most brazen bribers, accused of making $200,000 in mortgage payments for a Department of Buildings official and paying for his cruise vacation, is still on the lam more than two years after a 2015 press conference announcing the busts.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. described a two-year probe that uncovered various bribery schemes, many involving expediters who paid off high-ranking bosses, clerks and inspectors in return for favors such as dismissing violations. The city staffers were charged with accepting more than $400,000 from the expediters, who act as middlemen for developers and builders, and from others.
Vance proudly proclaimed that all were indicted on felony counts, which carried maximum sentences of up to 15 years in prison.
City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, whose agency participated in the probe, said at the time that the accused “did New York City real harm and now they must face the criminal-justice system.”
But that justice system went easy in many cases.
Twenty people pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of giving unlawful gratuities or attempting to “reward official misconduct.”
Most of them were sentenced to community service. Even many who pleaded to felonies did not receive jail time.
One of the bribers, Frank Dwyer, who owns several Manhattan bars including Jack Dempsey’s and Bourbon Street, was accused of paying off Donald O’Connor, the DOB’s chief of development for Manhattan construction.
O’Connor pleaded guilty to bribery and misconduct. He was sentenced to four months in jail. Dwyer got community service.
David Weiszer, an expediter, was accused of making the home-mortgage payments for Gordon Holder, the DOB’s chief of development for Brooklyn. He was also charged with buying Holder and his wife SUVs and a Caribbean cruise, and giving them cash for travel and home renovations.
Weiszer, 67, took off months before the indictment was announced and hasn’t been found.
Holder reportedly cooperated with authorities and his case is under seal. His wife, Janelle Daly, pleaded guilty to giving unlawful gratuities and received community service.
A spokeswoman for Vance said, “While prison time is an appropriate disposition for certain nonviolent defendants, justice is being served in these cases through the return of more than $300,000 to New York City taxpayers to date.”