70 NYCHA Workers Charged in Largest Single-Day Bribery Takedown in Justice Department History

In a groundbreaking operation, the US Southern District of New York Attorney’s office has charged 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in what is now the largest single-day bribery takedown in the history of the Department of Justice. These charges stem from a decade-long corruption scheme, described as a “classic pay-for-play,” where superintendents and administrators allegedly accepted bribes totaling $2 million to secure work contracts at NYCHA properties.

Among the individuals charged is Dwarka Rupnarain, a retired NYCHA superintendent who allegedly collected over $83,100 in bribes during his tenure from 2007 to 2022. Rupnarain’s social media presence reveals a penchant for luxury vacations and a love for European sports cars. Rigoberto Charriez, a groundskeeper and superintendent at various NYCHA housing projects, pocketed at least $70,000 in bribes between 2016 and 2024. Charriez was even selected to participate in NYCHA’s Coaching and Mentorship Leadership Academy, where he was hailed as a role model.

Nymiah Branch, a superintendent who grew up in Brooklyn projects, allegedly accepted around $3,000 in bribes while working at two housing projects between 2018 and 2019. Branch had been praised as a “hero” by NYCHA administrator Eva Trimble in 2020. Alex Tolozano, a Bronx superintendent, is accused of taking at least $41,000 in bribes from 2016 to 2019. Tolozano’s work history includes a suspension in 2022 after he was caught naked in bed with a woman during a work-related video conference call.

Elizabeth Tapia, a superintendent in Brooklyn, allegedly accepted $11,000 in bribes between 2019 and 2021. In 2022, Tapia was suspended for 15 days after admitting to approving her domestic partner’s timesheets without authorization and reassigning his work to give him preferential schedules. Henry McPhatter, a superintendent at buildings in Brooklyn and Harlem, allegedly made at least $15,000 in bribes from 2020 to 2022. McPhatter had previously faced an eight-day suspension in 2020 for charging a subordinate to review a resume.

Juan Mercado, a former NYCHA superintendent, is accused of accepting a staggering $314,300 in bribes from 2014 to 2023. Other notable individuals charged include Nirmal Lorick, Jose Hernandez, Veronica Hollman, Frankie Villanueva, Victor de Los Santos, and Patrick Butler, who allegedly accepted bribes ranging from $35,000 to $153,000.

These charges highlight a significant betrayal of trust, as the accused NYCHA workers are alleged to have prioritized personal gain over the interests of NYCHA residents, the City of New York, and taxpayers. US Attorney Damien Williams emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating that the defendants “allegedly used their jobs at NYCHA to line their own pockets.”

Author: CrimeDoor

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