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Housing officials plead guilty to accepting bribes

Brooklyn Daily
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Two former city Department of Housing Preservation and Development supervisors embroiled in a massive bribery scam threw themselves on the mercy of the court on Tuesday as they pleaded guilty and promised to pay nearly $100,000 in fines.

Federal prosecutors claim that Michael Provenzano, the agency’s former director of Construction Services, and Luis Adorno, a former inspections supervisor in the agency’s Department of Architecture and Construction Engineering, tried to build a house out of lies, corruption, and bribes.

Provenzano received more than $10,000 a year for five years for providing contractors with classified documents, while Adorno took $100,000 to award a construction company exclusive city contracts.

The two men were facing up to 10 years in prison, officials said, but the jail sentence was taken off the table when they pleaded guilty and agreed to pay back the proceeds of their crimes.

“The guilty pleas announced today serve to vindicate the public’s interest in holding accountable New York City officials who turned their backs on those they were hired to serve — the neediest New Yorkers,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. “These guilty pleas also mark our determined and continuing pursuit of corruption within the publicly-funded affordable housing sector. Those who qualify for affordable housing deserve no less.”

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is the largest municipal developer of affordable housing in the United States, and is very familiar with corruption charges.

Last year, a senior executive at the city agency, Wendell Walters, pleaded guilty to accepting $2.5 million in bribes from developers.

That February, the department was accused of giving a Queens construction company an unfair advantage in the bidding process for a plan to rehab Greenpoint Hospital. The restoration project was ultimately halted, city officials say.

In light of all the widespread bribery, federal investigators promised to keep an eye on the city’s Housing Preservation and Development to make sure all of the contract awards are above board.

“These defendants allegedly flouted their responsibilities as city employees to profit personally,” said FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge Mary Galligan. “When public employees favor bribe-payers, inevitably, the city and the public stand to lose. The city gets substandard goods or services, or pays above market rates for them, or the public is otherwise at risk,” she said.

Chaun City trial begins

Three men accused of gunning down three adversaries could be facing life in prison now that their murder trial has begun, court officials said this week.

Maurice Hall, 30; Andrew Smart, 28; and Raneiro Chavez, 24, are accused of the daylight shooting in Bedford Stuyvesant back in September, 2009.

Witnesses say that the three suspects approached their victims as they sat on a stoop and asked them if they belonged to “Chaun City” — a neighborhood gang.

Before the three could respond, Hall and his accomplices pulled guns and opened fire — peppering the three victims with 30 bullets.

“Each had a gun in their hand and they fired over and over and over again,” Assistant District Attorney Nicole Itkin told the jury in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Monday, according to the Daily News.

Antoine Stokes, age 20, and Steven Hill, 15, died at the scene, said investigators. The third victim survived, but had to spend three months in the hospital.

Investigators believe the gunplay was in retaliation to an earlier shooting, but no motive was offered in court.

Prosecutors say the wounded victim was expected to testify, as well as several eye witnesses. The first witness to take the stand was Stokes’s mother Ernestine Stokes.

Stokes’s mother admitted that she didn’t see the shooting, but set the scene as she described holding onto her dying son as life slowly ebbed out of him.

“I just started screaming,” she told the jury.

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