Sunday, October 25, 2020

New York AG Indicts 3 In World Trade Center Bribery Scheme

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The New York state attorney general announced three indictments in an alleged bribery scheme involving the rebuilding of the World Trade Center campus Wednesday.

A World Trade Center official and two contractors were indicted in the alleged scheme involving the purchase of more than $17,000 in Knicks tickets, a Florida golf trip and other gifts for the WTC official in order to score preferential treatment amid the rebuilding of the WTC campus, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday.

Following a year-long investigation, James announced felony charges against James Luckie, 58, of Setauket, Paul Angerame, 59, of Manhattan and Michael Garrison, 59, of Stony Point for an alleged “pay-to-play” bribery scheme involving the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, James’s office announced.

The scheme endangered workers and ran through Port Authority of New York and New Jersey funds, her office said.

“These individuals were trusted with rebuilding the site of the worst terror attack in American history, but instead, allegedly squandered public funds to line their own pockets,” James said in a statement.

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“Not only did they trade lavish gifts for confidential information and preferential work, but they put lives at risk by hiring unqualified workers to carry out serious electrical work at the site. Let this serve as a loud and clear message: we will crack down on corruption of any kind and will work to ensure public integrity and accountability throughout New York,” she said.

The alleged bribes dates back to September 2015, according to the allegations.

Angerame and Garrison, formerly of the electrical contractor Hatzel & Buehler, purchased more than $17,000 in gifts — including New York Knicks tickets, 2015 Mets World Series tickets, luxury car services, a Florida golf trip, and a golf outing at Trump Ferry Point — in order to bribe Luckie, formerly of Cushman & Wakefield, into hiring them to provide the electrical maintenance services at the WTC, according to the AG’s allegations.

Though the Port Authority owns the WTC site, Cushman & Wakefield was tasked with providing various management and repairs back in 2013.

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Luckie took the pricey tickets and golf trips, and then, the AG’s office alleges, he gave Angerame and Garrison information regarding the work that the Port Authority was soliciting contractors to do, per the AG. The information included confidential details about the documents soliciting proposals from contractors, budgeting, electrical work, and other assistance that was not given to competitors, per the AG.

In January 2016 through May 2017, seven unqualified electricians with personal ties to the accused got some $1.26 million in compensation from the Port Authority for work on the site, according to the AG.

Safety complaints regarding the unqualified electricians are what first sparked the Port Authority to investigate — upon which the lavish game tickets and golf trips were unveiled, according to the AG.

Angerame, Garrison, and Luckie were charged with various counts of corrupting the government and charges involving bribery, according to the AG.

A lawyer for Garrison, David Scott Smith, said, “Mr. Garrison has entered a plea of not guilty to these legally and factually flawed allegations.”

“This case will be vigorously litigated in motions and at trial if it isn’t dismissed before then,” said Smith, of the firm Smith & King. “Either way, we expect he will be vindicated.”

A lawyer for Angerame, Anthony M. Capozzolo, said, “Mr. Angerame has worked in the construction industry for 25 years with an impeccable record and was, in fact, a recovery volunteer at the World Trade Center site on September 13, 2001, immediately after the attack.”

“In bringing this case, the Attorney General’s Office, without notice, has wrongly decided to label lawful business practices as criminal. We intend to fight this case and litigate these issues vigorously,” said Capozzolo, a partner with Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC.

A lawyer for Luckie did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The charges could lead to up to 15 years in state prison if the men are convicted, the AG’s office said.

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