Fourteen people were charged Tuesday with being involved in a massive construction fraud scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars in corrupt work contracts at buildings for financial news organization Bloomberg LP.
The accused are alleged to have stolen millions and committed bribery, money laundering, and other felonies during the six-year-long racket.
Those charged include four ex-employees of Bloomberg LP — the company run by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is currently weighing a 2020 presidential run — including Anthony Guzzone, the former head of global construction, and construction manager Michael Campana. Both were fired after their offices were raided at Bloomberg’s Manhattan headquarters in October 2017.
Guzzone, Campana, and others, including executives at Turner Construction, which held a lucrative construction contract with Bloomberg, allegedly received kickbacks in the form of cash, custom barbecues, stainless steel appliances, and lavish landscaping from allegedly complicit subcontractors.
Bloomberg himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance thanked both Bloomberg LP and Turner Construction for their assistance in the investigation.
All the individuals arraigned Tuesday pleaded not guilty. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office announced that more than a dozen other people have pleaded guilty so far in this case, and $5.5 million in restitution has been recovered.
Prosecutors said that the conspirators stole at least $15 million from Bloomberg’s company. Those at the top of the pyramid — Guzzone and former Turner vice president Ronald Olson — accrued more than $1 million each, prosecutors said.
The defendants are accused of rigging the bidding process for interior work on Bloomberg offices, then awarding the contracts to the conspirators, who paid kickbacks and bribes disguised as fees and other work-related costs.
One such scheme, prosecutors said, involved the creation of Litespeed Electric, Inc., an electrical company that the DA’s office called the “brainchild” of Guzzone and others charged in the indictments.
Using the Bloomberg executives’ inside information, the conspirators arranged for more than $240 million in contracts — a veritable monopoly on electrical work at Bloomberg properties — to be awarded to Litespeed.
Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Christopher Beard, who is the lead prosecutor in the case, said that Olson, a vice president at Turner Construction, received “at least $1.2 million in cash payments alone,” which he used to furnish his home in Long Island and a vacation home in New Jersey. “I don’t think it’s any stretch to say the case against Olson is overwhelming,” Beard said.
During his arraignment, Beard called Guzzone — who is alleged to have stolen more than $1 million — the “capstone of the pyramid of corruption,” claiming he “orchestrated almost the entire scheme.”
Prosecutors also said Guzzone received expensive gifts like stainless steel appliances and a custom barbecue, as well as stone and patio work on his New Jersey home. “He built himself, quite frankly, a palace,” Beard said.
Guzzone’s lawyer, Alex Spiro of the firm Quinn Emanuel, has said his client is innocent. Spiro told the court his client had a sterling employment record during his more than 20 years at Bloomberg and that he believed the district attorney's case was built on evidence provided by informants who were “alcoholics” and “proven liars.”
“The accusations are one part fairy tale and one part a misguided attempt to turn professional courtesies and favors into a federal case,” Spiro told BuzzFeed News.
During the arraignment of another alleged conspirator, Vito Nigro, a project superintendent for Turner, Assistant District Attorney James Hanley told the judge that the prosecutors had recovered evidence from Nigro’s phone.
Nigro, Hanley said, referred in text messages to a meeting where payoffs were made as “lunch” and asked the conspirators if they were bringing “sandwiches.”
“There was no food being served at these occasions,” Hanley said. “It was all cash.”