Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of HERMAN EPSTEIN, 37, to 3-to-6 years in state prison for bribing a New York City Department of Buildings (“DOB”) employee to remove stop work orders, complaints, and violations associated with properties owned by or affiliated with the defendant. On February 7, 2017, the defendant was convicted by a New York State Supreme Court jury of the sole count in the indictment against him, Bribery in the Third Degree.
“Herman Epstein is a serial briber who has shown time and again that nothing—including criminal convictions—will stop him from cutting corners to make a profit,” said District Attorney Vance. “In this case and previous ones, he did not hesitate to pay for favors, ignore safety regulations, flout the law with seeming impunity, and even use aliases in an attempt to disguise his dishonest conduct. The construction industry in New York City is experiencing a historic boom, with construction spending projected to top $42 billion this year. This unprecedented demand comes with enormous economic incentives to build quickly, which unfortunately, can invite corruption. ‘Pay-to-play’ culture within government agencies not only compromises the integrity of these important institutions, but endangers our entire city by allowing potentially unsafe buildings to secure rubber-stamp inspections.
“I thank my Office’s Rackets Bureau and our partners for their assistance in putting an end to this widespread corruption. We will continue to collaborate to ensure the integrity of New York City agencies and fair competition in our housing and real estate development markets.”
New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “This investigation demonstrates the undeniable link between corruption and public safety. With just a bribe to a DOB inspector, this property owner had building code violations erased from the system, potentially endangering the safety of New Yorkers and compromising the integrity of the construction taking place. DOI and our partners, like the Manhattan District Attorney, remain committed to pursuing those who cut corners and engage in criminal conduct in the City’s construction industry.”
The defendant was one of more than 50 individuals charged in multiple corruption and bribery schemes involving DOB and Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”) inspectors. The nearly two-year investigation, initiated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Rackets Bureau and the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), began as an inquiry into EPSTEIN’s bribery of a single DOB inspector in 2013, which uncovered widespread corruption.
The investigation, which utilized court-authorized wiretapping, analysis of DOB, HPD, financial, and phone records, and surveillance, led to the indictment of 12 DOB employees, five HPD employees, and 34 property managers, expeditors, or contractors, and involved approximately $450,000 in bribes related to 100 residential and commercial properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. To date, there have been two trial convictions and more than 40 individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation. Six former building inspectors have been sentenced to terms of incarceration, and more than $350,000 has been ordered in restitution and fines.
Assistant District Attorney Rachana Pathak handled the prosecution of the cases under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Michael Ohm, Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau; Judy Salwen, Principal Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau; Amyjane Rettew, former Counsel to the Investigation Division; Jodie Kane, Chief of the Rackets Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Assistant District Attorneys Jerrold Steigman and Kathryn Spota and paralegal Alexandra Oviedo assisted with the case.
District Attorney Vance thanked DOI, including Special Investigators Michael Antolini, Noah Mohney, and Dan Taylor; Chief Investigator James McElligott; Deputy Inspector General Edward Zinser; Inspector General Gregory Cho; and Associate Commissioner Michael Carroll. He also thanked DOB Investigative Attorney Amber Lewis.
HERMAN EPSTEIN, D.O.B. 3/12/1979
- Bribery in the Third Degree, a class D felony, one count
- 3-to-6 years in state prison