City housing official arrested in corruption probe

FBI handout photo of investigators arriving at Wendell Walters' Harlem brownstone on Thursday, October 6, 2011. (FBI)

October 6, 2011 3:18:46 PM PDT
An assistant commissioner for the New York City housing agency is among seven people charged in a housing corruption probe.

The charges were announced Thursday in Brooklyn by city and federal authorities and include racketeering conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

The defendants include two attorneys, several real estate developers and Wendell Walters.

Walters served as the assistant commissioner for new construction for the agency, and the charges were linked to his job responsibilities.

Authorities said Walters bought his Strivers Row apartment building in 2004 from a developer doing extensive business with the city. The developer, Edward Pinckney, has since died. The list price was $561,000, but a federal complaint describes the transaction as a bribe.

According to officials, the 6'7" Walters is referred to by one developer as "the big man." That developer -- Stevenson Dunn, his friend since high school -- complained Walters was "greedy" for demanding a $75,000 payoff. The payment wound up being only $25,000. He is also referred to by another developer as "the tall guy."

Authorities say the scheme enabled defendants to pocket between $1 million and $2 million in kickbacks and bribes over a decade.

They say it cost the housing department hundreds of thousands of dollars in overpayments to developers on projects in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

"(The housing department) suspended Walters without pay, disqualified the indicted developers from city work. We just have no tolerance for corruption in city government. Will this be the last time we discover somebody doing something illegal? Of course not. In the real world, there will always be some," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.