Housing Boss Who Was Accused of Sexual Abuse Now Faces Bribery Charges

The previous head of one of many largest homeless shelter networks in New York was arrested Wednesday on federal fees that he pocketed tons of of hundreds of {dollars} in kickbacks from contractors working together with his group.

The arrest of the chief, Victor Rivera, the previous president and founding father of the Bronx Dad or mum Housing Community, got here lower than two months after a New York Instances investigation discovered that he had engaged in a long pattern of sexual abuse and financial impropriety that stretched back almost a decade. Mr. Rivera was fired by the nonprofit final month, following The Instances report.

The group is one in every of dozens of nonprofit teams that function the town’s $2 billion system to shelter the homeless, whose numbers have reached file ranges.

Prosecutors on Wednesday mentioned that Mr. Rivera had enriched himself for years by accepting bribes from corporations doing work for his group, in line with papers filed in Federal District Courtroom in Manhattan.

Mr. Rivera, 61, laundered a few of the cash by means of entities he managed, together with a consulting firm owned by one in every of his family members, and used it to pay down his mortgage, in line with prosecutors.

On the similar time, Mr. Rivera faces one other felony inquiry that started in response to The Instances’s report: The Bronx district legal professional’s workplace opened an investigation after 10 girls, together with homeless girls staying in Mr. Rivera’s shelters, accused him of sexual assault or harassment. Two girls mentioned he had coerced them into performing oral intercourse. “No one tells daddy no,” Mr. Rivera informed a kind of girls, an worker, in line with an account she gave to the police.

The Instances discovered that the Bronx Dad or mum Housing Community paid two staff who had complained about Mr. Rivera’s sexual conduct a complete of $175,000 in settlements that prohibited them from talking publicly about their allegations.

Mr. Rivera helped begin the Bronx Dad or mum Housing Community in 2000 and steered it because it grew to turn into a significant metropolis contractor. Since 2017, his group has acquired $274 million in metropolis funding to run nearly 70 websites of homeless housing. Because the coronavirus swept by means of the homeless inhabitants, the town gave his group one other $10 million to supply rooms the place contaminated folks may isolate and recuperate.

Because the funding got here in, Mr. Rivera’s private fortune additionally grew. He drove a Mercedes-Benz leased by his group and acquired a house with a heated swimming pool north of New York Metropolis and one other home within the Poconos.

The Instances investigation discovered Mr. Rivera had used the nonprofit for his private monetary achieve. He mingled the nonprofit’s funds with for-profit housing corporations he owned, steered profitable contracts to mates and offered jobs to a number of members of his household, the investigation discovered.

“Victor Rivera sought to leverage his place because the C.E.O. of a nonprofit into a really a lot for-profit state of affairs for himself,” the U.S. legal professional in Manhattan, Audrey Strauss, mentioned in an announcement. Federal prosecutors carried out the investigation collectively with the town Division of Investigation.

At an preliminary court docket look on Wednesday, Mr. Rivera pleaded not responsible to fees of conspiracy, trustworthy companies wire fraud and cash laundering and was launched on bond. The prosecutor, David Abramowicz, mentioned that Mr. Rivera’s lawyer mentioned his shopper wished to attempt to cooperate with the federal government “in its investigation and prosecution of others.” He provided no extra particulars about an ongoing inquiry or what info Mr. Rivera may present.

Mr. Rivera’s lawyer, Harlan J. Protass, declined to remark. A spokesman for the Bronx Dad or mum Housing Community didn’t reply to a request for remark.

As homelessness has soared in New York Metropolis in recent times, the town has entered into contracts with dozens of nonprofit organizations that run shelters and supply companies. However officers have struggled to get rid of conflicts of curiosity and self-dealing in lots of these teams. Ten of the town’s 70 nonprofit operators have been flagged for critical administration or monetary improprieties, however all of them proceed to obtain funding.

Metropolis investigators have examined one of many metropolis’s largest suppliers, Acacia Network, which was found to have steered millions of dollars to a security company tied to prime nonprofit officers. The town sued one other shelter supplier, Childrens Community Services, final 12 months after accusing executives of fraud, bid-rigging and different monetary misdeeds. Federal prosecutors and metropolis investigators have investigated that group.

After The Instances disclosed allegations about Mr. Rivera’s conduct, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in early February that the town would rent an outdoor auditing agency to conduct a sweeping overview of the nonprofit organizations offering companies for the homeless.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio mentioned Wednesday that the town is within the technique of hiring an outdoor group to look at the shelter suppliers, however didn’t present additional particulars in regards to the standing of the audit.

In court docket papers, federal prosecutors provided some element about how Mr. Rivera employed the nonprofit to learn himself by means of bribery.

One entity that subleased property to the Bronx Dad or mum Housing Community wrote checks for “consulting charges” to an organization owned by one in every of Rivera’s family members, prosecutors mentioned. The charges had been the truth is kickback funds that Mr. Rivera then used to pay down the mortgage on his house, court docket papers mentioned.

Mr. Rivera was accused of nepotism and conflicts of curiosity in 2017 by a whistle-blower who gave info to the town Division of Social Companies, which oversees homeless shelters, and the town positioned his group on a particular watch listing.

Nonetheless, Mr. Rivera continued to search out methods to learn himself and his associates, The Instances discovered.

Final 12 months, as an example, the Bronx Dad or mum Housing Community awarded $184,000 in upkeep contracts to a pal of Mr. Rivera who additionally had carried out work at one in every of Mr. Rivera’s private buildings within the Bronx, in line with metropolis contracting information and an insurance coverage certificates. Mr. Rivera’s group additionally steered hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in lease funds to an organization referred to as City Residences Corp, which is owned by his onetime enterprise associate.

William Ok. Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser contributed reporting.

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