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Two superintendents at the city Housing Authority have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for granting no-bid contracts, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced.
Leroy Gibbs, who worked as a resident buildings superintendent at the Frederick Douglass Houses on the Upper West Side, accepted about $2,000 in bribes from a confidential informant in February 2020, federal prosecutors said. The money was in exchange for no-bid contracts worth $9,950 for work at the NYCHA development.
Julio Figueroa, an assistant resident buildings superintendent at the Fort Independence Street-Heath Avenue Houses in the Bronx, received approximately $6,000 in bribes from a confidential informant between July 2021 and this August. In exchange, he awarded $46,622 worth of no-bid contracts, the feds said.
“Leroy Gibbs and Julio Figueroa betrayed the trust placed in them by the New York City Housing Authority by accepting bribes in exchange for awarding no-bid contracts. Gibbs and Figueroa now stand convicted of federal felonies and will face sentencing for their crimes,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
Gibbs pleaded guilty to one count of solicitation and receipt of a bribe on Oct. 7. Figueroa pleaded guilty to the same charges — the latter of which carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence — Nov. 3. As part of a plea agreement, Gibbs will forfeit $2,000 and make restitution in the amount of $2,000, while Figueroa will forfeit $6,000 and make restitution for the same amount.
Gibbs, who resigned from his job in September, is expected to be sentenced Jan. 25; Figueroa’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 9. He is also facing a disciplinary hearing, according to NYCHA.
An opportunity for corruption
The use of no-bid contracts at NYCHA has come under scrutiny before. NYCHA, which has more than $40 billion in capital needs and a backlog of 656,000 open work orders as of September, has increased its use of micro-purchases over the past few years in order to speed up repairs.
Investigators at the city Department of Investigation warned the Authority in 2016 that increased reliance on no-bid micro-purchases — which allows vendors to be hired without going through the bidding process as long as the contracts were under $10,000 — left it vulnerable to corruption. The federal monitoring team charged with overseeing reforms at the beleaguered public-housing system also began to probe NYCHA’s use of no-bid contracts after receiving complaints of shoddy repair work.
Last year, nine contractors were indicted after allegedly offering $20,000 in bribes to NYCHA managers in order to be chosen for no-bid contracts, according to the DOI. The authority has made reforms to its micro-purchasing policies, including changes to how contracts are awarded and tracked.
“NYCHA has a zero-tolerance policy for malfeasance and NYCHA oversight departments work with the NYC Department of Investigation and others to investigate these cases. NYCHA will continue to root out corruption, improve our management structure, and cultivate a culture of excellence,” NYCHA spokesperson Rochel Leah Goldblatt said of the recent incidents.
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