HFZ Capital Exec Who Took Bribes From Mob Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison


The former HFZ Capital Group executive who took bribes from a mob-owned construction company was sentenced to four months in prison for filing a false tax return, court records show.

John Simonlacaj, a former managing director for HFZ, previously pleaded guilty to submitting a false tax return for free renovation work done on his home by CWC Contracting Corp., which was run by alleged Gambino crime family members. Federal prosecutors said the more than $100,000 in construction work was tantamount to a bribe for Simonlacaj to award contracts to CWC.

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“These extensive, free benefits were not an unreported gift from the Gambino crime family to their friend, Simonlacaj,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “Rather, they were bribes … calculated to secure and maintain Simonlacaj’s support for CWC, in violation of Simonlacaj’s fiduciary duties to his employer.”

The sentencing was first reported by The Real Deal.

Between 2018 to 2019, prosecutors said CWC did more than $100,000 worth of work on Simonlacaj’s Scarsdale, N.Y., home, of which Simonlacaj failed to report $56,000 as taxable income, according to court records. Meanwhile, Simonlacaj tossed CWC several construction projects from different developers — including HFZ’s luxury condo project next to the High Line  The XI — and approved inflated work orders, prosecutors said.

A spokesperson for HFZ previously told Commercial Observer that once the developer learned about the investigations, it removed CWC from all of its projects and terminated Simonlacaj.

CWC was operated by alleged Gambino crime members Mark Kocaj (Simonlacaj’s cousin) and Andrew Campos. They were arrested, along with Simonlacaj, in December 2019.

In January, Kocaj pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and Campos pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, TRD reported. Simonlacaj copped to submitting a false tax return, but pleaded not guilty to tax fraud and conspiracy charges.

Simonlacaj faced up to three years in prison for the guilty plea, but a judge on Tuesday sentenced him to four months with one year of supervised release, court records show.

“John takes responsibility for modest tax crime he committed and looks forward to moving on with his life,” Simonlacaj’s lawyer, Glenn Colton, said in a statement. “John has consistently maintained his innocence with respect to the allegations relating to alleged corruption, organized crime ties, and defrauding his employer. He is gratified that the government and the court properly dismissed those portions of the charges.”

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from Simonlacaj’s lawyer.

Nicholas Rizzi can be reached at nrizzi@commercialobserver.com.