The Chicago Syndicate: Former Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich Accused of Trading Favors for $150,000 in Bribes in Organized Crime Connected Charges
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Former Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich Accused of Trading Favors for $150,000 in Bribes in Organized Crime Connected Charges

Eric Ulrich rose through the ranks of city government with modest momentum, first elected as a city councilman before Mayor Eric Adams appointed him a senior adviser and, finally, his commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

At each stop, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office said on Wednesday, he used his positions to benefit friends and associates, and harvested more than $150,000 for himself. They said he reaped New York Mets season tickets, a custom suit, a painting by an apprentice of Salvador DalĂ­ and cash for gambling.

The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, said in a statement that Mr. Ulrich had accepted or solicited the bribes over just two years. And a court filing said that Mr. Ulrich had engaged in conduct antithetical to his oath of office “on an almost daily basis.”

“At every possible turn,” Mr. Ulrich used his taxpayer-funded positions “to line his pockets,” Mr. Bragg’s statement said. At an afternoon news conference, the district attorney said that “Eric Ulrich’s duty was to the people of the City of New York, not his friends, not his associates and certainly not himself.”

Mr. Ulrich, 38, who faces 16 felony charges including counts of conspiracy and bribe-taking, pleaded not guilty, as did five other men who prosecutors say participated in the scheme. A sixth man was showing symptoms of Covid-19, his lawyer said, and is to be arraigned later this month.

Taken together, the five indictments that bear the charges portray Mr. Ulrich as a one-stop fixer who, after rising to the highest levels of municipal government, reached into more than a half-dozen agencies to expedite restaurant and building inspections, assist with licensing problems and arrange jobs and raises.

Mr. Ulrich’s lawyer, Samuel M. Braverman, said in a statement after the arraignment that his client maintained his innocence and that “today’s proceedings do nothing to change that — his integrity remains intact.”

“When thousands of phone calls and documents are cherry-picked and cut into small bits, and then viewed with eyes biased toward guilt, anyone can be made to look bad,” he added. “Mr. Ulrich unequivocally denies these charges and looks forward to his day in court where only the evidence matters, not charging documents or press releases.”

The head of the city’s Department of Investigation, Jocelyn Strauber, said that Mr. Ulrich had promised the six other defendants such favors with little hesitation.

“When a public official puts New York City up for sale and uses their government office, influence and relationships to enrich themselves, they will be held accountable,” she said at the news conference.

The mayor was not charged or implicated in any wrongdoing. But the investigation has put him in an uncomfortable position. He appointed Mr. Ulrich despite a letter the councilman wrote on behalf of a constituent with ties to organized crime, and despite his acknowledged gambling and alcohol addictions. Mr. Ulrich and three of the other defendants hosted an August 2021 fund-raiser on the mayor’s behalf.

Asked whether Mr. Adams regretted appointing Mr. Ulrich after the indictments were made public, a spokesman for the mayor said, “We always expect all our employees to adhere to the strictest ethical guidelines.” The mayor’s statement on Wednesday reasserted that his office would continue to assist Mr. Bragg.

The arraignment Wednesday afternoon in New York State Supreme Court was a crowded affair, with Mr. Ulrich, the other defendants and their lawyers clustered around the table as the docket numbers for the five indictments were read out. Throughout, Mr. Ulrich sat at the table, wearing a flannel jacket and gray slacks. Prosecutors asked the judge, Daniel Conviser, to impose mild restrictions on Mr. Ulrich’s travel, which the judge agreed to do.

Four of the indictments charged Mr. Ulrich and various friends and associates with bribery and corruption-related crimes. The fifth accused him of failing to disclose his ill-gotten gains on financial disclosure forms.

The other defendants are Mark Caller, 51, a Brooklyn real estate developer; Joseph Livreri, 55, and Anthony Livreri, 51, brothers who own a Queens pizzeria; Michael Mazzio, 54, who operates a Brooklyn towing company; Paul Grego, 73, who expedites permit and plan approvals at the Buildings Department; and Victor Truta, 53, a former city correction captain.

Court papers said the bribes bestowed on Mr. Ulrich included a bespoke suit, artwork and a discounted apartment in a luxury beachfront building in Queens where Mr. Ulrich lived. The premium Mets season ticket package was valued at nearly $10,000.

Last month, Mr. Ulrich, whose phone was wiretapped as part of the investigation, posted to social media a grinning selfie in a Mets shirt with the caption “Take me out to the ballgame!”

The Livreri brothers and Mr. Mazzio were said to have given Mr. Ulrich cash that he used in part to fund his gambling at casinos and at the 89th Street Cafe, an illegal gambling club, according to the court papers.

Law enforcement officials have identified Mr. Mazzio and the Livreri brothers as having connections to organized crime, and prosecutors had sought to find out more about Mr. Ulrich’s relationship with organized crime figures.

The former commissioner surrendered at the district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan shortly after 7 a.m. He was accompanied by his lawyer, Samuel M. Braverman, and was carrying a copy of Bill O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Jesus: A History.”

Mr. Ulrich was appointed to head the Buildings Department in May 2022. He resigned six months later, when news of the investigation surfaced.

The department, though often bedeviled by scandal, is among the most important city agencies. It regulates the construction and real estate industries, issuing permits, licensing contractors and policing construction safety and the city’s building code, and thus can have a significant impact on development.

Mr. Caller, a Brooklyn real estate developer, was accused of attempting to use his relationship with Mr. Ulrich to influence the department to expedite requests for his firm, the Marcal Group, and of pushing the Department of City Planning to make a zoning change in Rockaway Park.

Mr. Caller’s firm works on developing commercial and residential projects in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, including an 86-unit condo building in Rockaway Park and several others in the Rockaways, according to news reports from the real estate website The Real Deal and The City.

According to the Marcal Group’s website, Mr. Caller “amassed a $100 million portfolio” of more than 1,500 units in “underserved communities.” The Marcal Group says in recent years it has collaborated with the city on affordable housing and with Maimonides Medical Center on medical facilities.

Mr. Caller’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement that his client “did not commit any crime whatsoever,” adding that the indictment was “predicated on a flawed theory” and Mr. Ulrich’s apartment was obtained at market rate.

Lawyers for the Livreris, Mr. Grego and Mr. Truta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Livreri brothers, Mr. Mazzio and Mr. Ulrich organized the 2021 fund-raiser for the mayor, and Mr. Ulrich has raised Mr. Adams’s name during the investigation.

Mr. Ulrich has told prosecutors that Mr. Adams warned him of the investigation, which the mayor has denied. And Mr. Adams was among those whose conversations were wiretapped by investigators.

Thanks to Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Affliction Sale

Flash Mafia Book Sales!