Nailed! Manhattan DA helps hammer in criminal indictment of alleged $5M construction scheme


Two dozen individuals and 26 companies found themselves charged in a multimillion-dollar construction industry kickback scheme in an indictment that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg unveiled Wednesday.

According to Bragg, the long-term investigation by the NYPD and the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI) took place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and accuses the defendants of operating a corrupt bidding process of contracts over more than an eight-year period.

Prosecutors allege that 51-year-old Robert Baselice allegedly ran the kickback ring alongside alleged associates 58-year-old Louis Astuto, 43-year-old Paul Noto, and 59-year-old Frank Camuso.

They were part of the slew of suspects who walked into New York County Criminal Courthouse on Jan. 18 single file in chains, attempting to hide their faces as they were marched into a 100 Centre St. courtroom.

“These companies work on some of New York’s companies most significant high-rise projects in recent memory,” Bragg charged. “I hope this 83-count indictment sends a message that the Manhattan DA’s office and our important partners in NYPD and DOI will not tolerate this type of bribery, corruption and fraud in Manhattan.”

24 individuals and 26 companies were indicted Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses

Bragg alleges that as vice president, Baselice oversaw his firm’s subcontractor bidding process and was responsible for providing developers with truthful and accurate information, something the DA says Baselice failed to do.

Instead, law enforcement sources said, Baselice purportedly exploited his position to steal from his developer clients beginning in April of 2013, he supposedly stole millions of dollars. The subcontractors paid more than $4,200,000 to Baselice and more than $2,800,000 to entities.

“Their scheme involves obtaining bids for work from complicit subcontractors who would increase their bid prices to generate funds to pay kickbacks to Baselice and his co-defendants. The developers were not the only victims here. Commercial bribery schemes like this one, drive up construction costs in New York City and these criminal schemes also deprive law-abiding subcontractors and their employees of a fair opportunity to participate in the bidding process and be awarded contracts,” DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Stauber said.  

According to Stauber, 14 of the defendants charged on Jan. 18 hold a professional license with the City’s Department of Buildings and will be referred to DOB for review. 

Mike Vatter of the Local 79 Construction and General Building Laborers states that the companies involved in the indictment are currently working on the NYPD auto impound lot in Brooklyn that went up in flames late last year; however, Bragg said he was not prepared to comment on the matter.

24 individuals and 26 companies were indicted Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses
24 individuals and 26 companies were indicted Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses

Mike Prohaska, Business Manager of Laborers’ Local 79, applauded Bragg for aggressively pursuing the indictment of 50 individuals, particularly against Andrew Horan, owner of Alba who allegedly took part in a scheme to obtain over $2,750,000 in work—something Prohaska says was no surprise since the union has battled against Alba’s alleged exploitation.

“At Terminal Warehouse, Alba routinely deprived Latino immigrant demolition workers – los demolicionistas – of healthcare during the COVID pandemic. Alba went so far as making it known to its entire workforce that it was offering cash payment to any workers who could provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of any coworker who deigned to file a claim for workman’s compensation against the company,” Prohaska said in a statement.

24 individuals and 26 companies were indicted Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses

“Construction laborers and demolition workers should not have to wait for criminal indictments before being protected on the job,” Prohaska added.

Developers accused in the court documents reportedly had roles in famous construction projects, including 11 Stone Street (the FiDi Hotel), 12 East 48th Street (Hilton Club The Central at 5th New York), 101 West 28th Street (the Remy), and 189 Bowery (the citizenM New York Bowery Hotel).  

24 individuals and 26 companies were indicted Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses
24 individuals and 26 companies were indicted Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Photo by Dean Moses