New York Attorney General Letitia James recently announced felony charges against three individuals who engaged in a “pay-to-play" bribery scheme surrounding the rebuilding of the World Trade Center at the expense of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. James Luckie, 58, of Setaucket, New York; Paul Angerame, 59, of Manhattan, New York; and Michael Garrison, 59, of Stony Point, New York, were charged in a scheme that involved exchanging gifts and entertainment for preferential work and confidential information.
Luckie, a former electrical manager at Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield, allegedly received expensive sports tickets, a Florida golf trip, on-demand luxury car service, other gifts and meals from Angerame and Garrison, two former managers at Wilmington, Delaware-based electrical contracting firm Hatzel & Buehler Inc., in exchange for preferential treatment at the World Trade Center site, which Cushman & Wakefield managed. Luckie, Garrison and Angerame also squandered Port Authority funds by causing the hire of unqualified electricians based on personal relationships with either Luckie, Garrison, or another Hatzel & Buehler supervisor, which led to potential safety issues and wasted Port Authority funds at the World Trade Center.
“These individuals were trusted with rebuilding the site of the worst terror attack in American history, but instead, allegedly squandered public funds to line their own pockets,” James says. “Not only did they trade lavish gifts for confidential information and preferential work, but they put lives at risk by hiring unqualified workers to carry out serious electrical work at the site. Let this serve as a loud and clear message: We will crack down on corruption of any kind and will work to ensure public integrity and accountability throughout New York.”
The Port Authority owns and operates the World Trade Center site and was completing the rebuilding after the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attack. In June 2013, the Port Authority contracted with Cushman & Wakefield to provide management, operations, repairs and maintenance services, including electrical work, for shared and common areas at the World Trade Center. Cushman & Wakefield hired Hatzel & Buehler to provide electrical maintenance services at the World Trade Center. On behalf of the Port Authority, Luckie supervised the electrical work, including the Hatzel & Buehler electricians and supervisors. Angerame was the general manager of the New York office of Hatzel & Buehler, and Garrison was the project manager responsible for the World Trade Center contract. As per the contractual agreements, Luckie and other Cushman & Wakefield staff and the Hatzel & Buehler electricians who worked at the World Trade Center were paid from a Port Authority operations account for electrician’s time and material.
As alleged in the indictment and in court filings, from September 2015 through June 9, 2017, Angerame and Garrison provided Luckie with at least $17,138 in unauthorized gifts and entertainment, which included: two tickets for a 2015-16 New York Knicks 10-game ticket plan (worth $4,100), two tickets for a 2016-17 Knicks 11-game ticket plan (worth $3,564), 2015 Mets World Series tickets with luxury car service (worth $2,823), a Florida golf trip (worth $3,850), a golf outing at Trump Ferry Point (worth $405), luxury car service on demand not connected to Hatzel & Buehler entertainment (worth $1,506), and other gifts. Luckie did not seek, nor have permission or authority from the Port Authority or Cushman & Wakefield to accept, the expensive gifts and entertainment in connection with his duties at the World Trade Center. While he was the electrical manager for the World Trade Center, Luckie aided Angerame and Garrison by providing them with confidential information about requests for proposals, future electrical work, budgeting for proposed new work, and other assistance not available to competing electrical contractors.
As further alleged in the indictment and court filings, contrary to a contract Hatzel & Buehler signed, in which it agreed to provide the World Trade Center with a “best in class performance” with workers trained and experienced in the work being performed, Luckie, Garrison and Angerame caused the hiring of electricians without the required training and experience to perform routine electrical maintenance. In total, Luckie approved the hiring of seven unqualified electricians who had family or personal ties to Luckie, Garrison and another supervisor at the World Trade Center site.
From January 2016 through May 2017, the seven unqualified electricians received $1.26 million in total compensation, including fringe benefits drawn on Port Authority funds. In late 2016, the Port Authority Office of the Inspector General (Port Authority IG) received a safety complaint about unqualified electricians working at the World Trade Center who were endangering themselves and their coworkers due to their lack of ability to work with high voltage electricity and perform routine maintenance. The Port Authority IG commenced an investigation of the safety complaint and discovered the gifts and business entertainment. Cushman & Wakefield and Hatzel & Buehler completed a competency review of the qualifications and skills of the electricians at the World Trade Center and terminated the unqualified electricians.
As he was acting on behalf of the Port Authority in his duties at the World Trade Center, Luckie is being charged as a public servant, and is charged with: one count of Corrupting the Government in the First Degree (a Class B felony), one count of Bribe Receiving in the Second Degree (a Class C felony), one count of Commercial Bribe Receiving in the First Degree (a class E felony), and two counts of Receiving Reward for Official Misconduct in the Second Degree (a Class E felony). Angerame and Garrison are charged with: one count of Corrupting the Government in the First Degree (a class B felony), one count of Bribery in the Second Degree (a class C felony), one count of Commercial Bribing in the First Degree (a class E felony), and two counts of Rewarding Official Misconduct in the Second Degree (a class E felony). If convicted, Luckie, Angerame and Garrison face mandatory state prison time up to 15 years.??
“I would like to thank the New York State attorney general for accepting our referral of this matter and their joint effort in investigating and prosecuting the three indicted individuals,” Port Authority Inspector General Michael Nestor says. “The Port Authority IG commenced this investigation based upon allegations of safety violations at the World Trade Center site, and through investigation, developed evidence of criminal activity. Working with Port Authority staff, any possible safety violations were addressed promptly. Our joint investigation with the attorney general’s office uncovered a pay to play scheme that is now being prosecuted. The Port Authority IG remains committed in preventing similar conduct pertaining to the Port Authority and investigating any such allegations.”
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.