A shady affordable housing developer who claimed he was “giving back” to the community while simultaneously bribing a city official and taking hundreds of thousands in kick backs is headed for sentencing in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Sergio Benitez, who was among more than a dozen Housing Preservation and Development officials, developers and lawyers arrested for a widespread bribery scheme in 2011, is headed to court Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported.
“I see my work as a way of giving back,” Mr. Benitez stated in a HPD brochure issued in 2011.
Mr. Benitez did build roughly 80 two- and three-story affordable homes, but he was also bribing former HPD Assistant Commissioner Wendell Walters through a scheme that involved exchanging money stuffed in golf ball boxes and coffee cups, and he took $228,000 in kickbacks from a general contractor hired on the Decatur Cluster development in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
“’Giving back’ does not involve taking kickbacks and rerouting public funds meant to cover construction costs to himself,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Cristina Posa wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Mr. Walters, the highest-ranking official in the Bloomberg administration arrested in the scheme, was busted in 2011 by the FBI after allegedly pocketing more than $600,000 in kickbacks over the previous decade.
Mr. Benitez faces up to 27 months in prison.