Marble Hill Houses superintendent charged in bribery scheme

U.S. Justice Dept.: Hernandez took $95K for NYCHA contracts


A former superintendent of Marble Hill Houses is one of 70 current and former NYCHA employees who were arrested by federal law enforcement last Tuesday for allegedly accepting more than $2 million in bribes for contracts for the city housing agency.

Jose Hernandez, 57, of Manhattan faces charges of solicitation and receipt of a bribe and extortion under color of official right for allegedly soliciting and accepting about $95,000 in bribes in exchange for arranging for certain contractors to receive no-bid contracts from New York City Housing Authority worth $640,000, according to a complaint in U.S. District Court Southern District of New York.

“Instead of acting in the interests of NYCHA residents, the City of New York, or taxpayers, the 70 defendants charged today (Feb. 6) allegedly used their jobs at NYCHA to line their own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. “This action is the largest single-day bribery takedown in the history of the Justice Department. NYCHA residents deserve better.”

Hernandez, who worked for Marble Hill Houses since June 2022, faces up to 30 years in federal prison if found guilty. Of the 70 defendants, Hernandez is charged with accepting the third highest amount in bribes. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the top two are Juan Mercado, a superintendent at Hammel Houses and Carleton Manor in Queens, with at least $314,300 in bribes and Nirmal Lorick, a superintendent at Baisley Park Houses in Queens with about $153,000 in bribes.

In a written statement to NYCHA residents and employees, NYCHA chief executive Lisa Bova-Hiatt and COO Eva Trimble, addressed the corruption charges by thanking enforcement authorities for “combating malfeasance.”

“In recent years, the NYCHA Inspector General has mounted robust investigations to root out malfeasance at the Authority,” they wrote. “NYCHA leadership works in partnership and full cooperation with the Inspector General and DOI (Department of Investigation) on these cases.

“NYCHA has zero tolerance for wrongful and illegal activity. The individuals allegedly involved in these acts violated your trust and betrayed fellow NYCHA colleagues and all New Yorkers.”

Hernandez worked for NYCHA for 14 years, starting in 2009 as an assistant superintendent at Washington and Lexington Houses in Manhattan until 2019, as a superintendent at Moore Houses in the Bronx near St. Mary’s Park until 2022 and as superintendent at Marble Hill Houses until 2024.

In the court filing, Rasove Ramirez, a special agent for HUD Office of the Inspector General, stated that a cooperating witness said they began performing no-bid purchase order work at Washington Houses on or about March 2014 and that they were awarded at least 173 such contracts during the time Hernandez served as assistant superintendent there. The statement also says the cooperating witness paid Hernandez $500 in cash and later in 2018 or 2019 about $1,000 in cash for each $5,000 no-bid contract at Washington Houses.

The statement goes on to say the witness understood that if they did not continue to make payments to Hernandez, they would not be awarded additional no-bid contracts.

“On or about July 26, 2023, CW-2 reviewed photo books containing a photograph of Hernandez among photographs of dozens of other individuals. CW-2 identified the photograph of Hernandez as ‘Jose Hernandez,’ whom CW-2 also knew as ‘David,’ at Washington Houses and Marble Hill Houses…”

Defendants arrested in the New York area last week were scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judges Stewart D. Aaron, Sarah L. Cave, Valerie Figueredo, Sarah Netburn, Katharine H. Parker, Gary Stein, and Ona T. Wang in Manhattan federal court.

HUD OIG Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis said: “The pay-to-play bribery schemes alleged in the complaints unsealed today waste millions of dollars and risk residents staying in unacceptable living conditions.  The alleged conduct identified during this investigation harms the effectiveness of housing programs that support more than 200,000 residents.  It also poses a significant risk to the integrity of the HUD rental assistance programs that support housing assistance in New York City and erodes the trust of NYCHA residents in HUD’s programs.  We will continue our work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to prevent and detect these and other schemes.”

NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the country, providing housing to 1-in-17 New Yorkers in 335 developments across the city and receiving over $1.5 billion in annual federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jose Hernandez, NYCHA, Marble Hill Houses, superintendent, bribery, extortion, contracts, no-bid, Juan Mercado, Nirmal Lorick, Lisa Bova-Hiatt, Damian Williams, U.S. Justice Department