Wednesday, April 16, 2003

CITY DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION AGENCY PROJECT MANAGER CHARGED WITH RECEIVING $48,000 IN BRIBES BY RIGGING SCORES OF CONTRACTS WORTH $280,000 TO PROVIDE OFFICE FURNITURE TO CHILDREN’S CENTER AND DAY CARE CENTERS

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, today announced that an architect/project manager for the City’s Department of Design and Construction has been indicted on charges of receiving about $48,000 in bribes by rigging 67 contracts worth over $280,000 to provide office furniture and other equipment to a children’s center in Manhattan and day care centers in Queens and Brooklyn.

District Attorney Brown said, “The defendant is alleged to have abused her authority to procure contracts up to $50,000 by soliciting and receiving $48,000 in illicit payoffs from several suppliers in return for awarding them 67 contracts worth over $280,000 to provide office furniture and equipment to several day care centers in Queens and Manhattan. An internal DDC review of the defendant’s purchases raised concerns and the agency referred the matter to the Department of Investigation which has worked closely with my Integrity Bureau to obtain the evidence to sustain the charges. Our City faces a severe budget crisis and we must make every penny count in order to maintain essential services.”

Commissioner Gill Hearn said, “This investigation goes to the very heart of corruption. Here, an allegedly corrupt City employee manipulated the City’s purchasing rules and developed an elaborate scheme with others to line their own pockets rather than help kids and City day care centers in need. Such greedy and selfish acts can not and will not be tolerated.”

District Attorney Brown identified the defendant as Teresita Sotto, 54, of 2284 85th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, a DDC Structures Division Architect/Project Manager earning $54,852 a year who has been employed by the City since 1995 and assigned to DDC since 1996. The defendant has been charged in a 160-count indictment with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree; Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree; Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree, Receiving Reward for Official Misconduct in the Second Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, Official Misconduct and Illegal Restraints of Trade and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The defendant was arrested earlier today at her work place in Long Island City by detectives of DOI’s New York City Police Department Squad and is being held pending arraignment in Queens Supreme Court.

The investigation, which is ongoing, began in September, 2000 when the Administration for Children’s Services notified DDC that office furniture purchases for a children’s center in Manhattan were over budget. DDC conducted an internal audit and referred its findings to DOI which conducted a review of purchasing contracts procured by the defendant and thereafter worked closely with the District Attorney’s Integrity Bureau.

The indictment charges that the defendant between January, 1999 and September, 2001 conspired with others to acquire DDC contracts by falsifying documents, gaining insider information not available to competing bidders, influencing competing bidders and obtaining approval of government officials.

The indictment additionally charges that the defendant helped set up at least four different collusive bidding operations with others and these companies involved in the operation would bid against themselves in obtaining contracts which were collected and submitted for approval by the defendant.

The indictment further charges that the four collusive bidding groups included the Deguzman/David Group using ERG Enterprises and Nikko Trading and Jvet Enterprises as their companies; the Leonard Delupin Group using Playlandscape and Adal Corporation as its businesses; the Anwar Arshad Group which worked along with the Delupin Group using Universal Construction, Arshad Corporation and Sara Imports and the Virginia Quibban Group which used Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment Integral Systems and Chandler Products.

According to the indictment, the defendant, in return, was to receive a portion of the profits from winning bidders and assisted the groups in selecting money amounts that were to be bid.

The furniture and other equipment supplied by the contractors included stools, chairs, an audio visual lectern, easels, a refrigerator, beds, folding tables, lounge chairs, library shelves, cabinets and play and gym equipment.

The centers involved were: (1) The Children’s Center at First Avenue and East 29th Street in Manhattan; (2) the Blanche Community Progress Day Care Center Number 2 at 44-20 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway, Queens; (3) the Blanche Community Progress Day Care Center at 109-60 202nd Street in Hollis, Queens; and (4) the Alonzo A. Daughtery Memorial Day Care Center at 333 2nd Street in Brooklyn.

District Attorney Brown and Commissioner Gill Hearn expressed their appreciation to DDC Commissioner Kenneth R. Holden and his staff for their assistance and cooperation in the investigation.

The investigation was conducted by Ronald P. Calvosa, DOI’s Inspector General for the Department of Design and Construction, First Deputy Inspector General Mary T. Piechocki and Assistant Inspector General Renard McDowell.

Assistant District Attorneys James M. Liander, Chief, and Josette Simmons-McGhee of the District Attorney’s Integrity Bureau is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Assistant District Attorney Linda M. Cantoni, Counsel to the Investigations Division.

It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.