A number of months earlier than he was elected mayor of New York Metropolis, Eric Adams was feted at a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser at Russo’s on the Bay, a luxurious wedding ceremony venue overlooking the water in Howard Seaside, Queens. Among the many hosts was Eric Ulrich, a metropolis councilman whom Mr. Adams would ultimately appoint as buildings commissioner.
Now, at the very least 4 hosts of the August 2021 occasion, together with Mr. Ulrich, are below scrutiny, with a number of anticipated to face costs stemming from a bribery and arranged crime investigation by the Manhattan district legal professional’s workplace, in response to a number of individuals aware of parts of the inquiry. It’s unclear whether or not the fund-raiser is related to the pending costs.
Legislation enforcement officers plan to announce costs subsequent month in opposition to at the very least 5 people, among the individuals stated. Along with Mr. Ulrich, these going through indictment embody Anthony and Joseph Livreri, the homeowners of a Queens pizzeria that prosecutors investigating allegations of playing and arranged crime exercise have centered on.
The Livreris had been additionally hosts of the fund-raiser, as was Michael Mazzio, a towing-company operator and pal of Mr. Ulrich’s who can be below investigation. Legislation enforcement officers had beforehand recognized Mr. Mazzio and the Livreri brothers as having connections to organized crime.
Through the investigation, prosecutors wiretapped Mr. Ulrich’s cellphone, two of the individuals stated. Mr. Adams just isn’t anticipated to be charged within the case, however he was amongst these whose conversations had been intercepted, the individuals stated.
That Mr. Adams was recorded speaking to his buildings commissioner just isn’t in itself uncommon, and there’s no indication that the mayor’s captured conversations implicated him in any felony conduct, the individuals aware of the inquiry stated. The mayor was not listed within the wiretap utility as an individual of curiosity.
The anticipated costs in opposition to Mr. Ulrich and the opposite fund-raiser hosts — and the mayor’s surfacing on a wiretap — are nonetheless the most recent examples of Mr. Adams’s tendency to encompass himself with buddies and supporters tainted by moral lapses and accusations of felony conduct.
The felony inquiry additionally raises questions concerning the fund-raiser and the character of Mr. Adams’s relationship with the occasion’s 11 hosts, who additionally included his shut confidant Timothy Pearson.
Fabien Levy, a deputy mayor for communications, stated that Mr. Adams intends to “enable this investigation to run its course, and can proceed to help the D.A. in any manner wanted.”
Mr. Levy added that the mayor “has not acquired any requests from the Manhattan D.A. surrounding this matter and has by no means spoken to Mr. Ulrich about this investigation.” A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg declined to remark.
Mr. Ulrich and the others who face costs, together with a Brooklyn developer, Mark Caller, are anticipated to be arraigned subsequent month. In current weeks, a grand jury voted to cost Mr. Ulrich with accepting a reduced residence from Mr. Caller, who has had enterprise earlier than the Buildings Division, in response to two of the individuals aware of the investigation.
Prosecutors imagine that Mr. Ulrich, who resigned in November days after investigators from the district legal professional’s workplace seized his telephone, accepted at the very least among the profit whereas nonetheless answerable for the company.
Prosecutors are anticipated to convey further costs associated to organized crime, the individuals stated, though the precise nature of the conduct in query was not clear.
In 2018, the Manhattan district legal professional’s workplace charged Mr. Mazzio and two of his brothers, Salvatore and Angelo, with taking part in a violent and unlawful towing monopoly. That case remains to be pending. Legislation enforcement officers at two separate companies have asserted that the three brothers and the Livreris have connections to the Gambino crime household.
A lawyer for Mr. Caller, Benjamin Brafman, stated there was “no connection by any means between Mr. Caller and any of the allegations of organized crime, and I might be shocked if the district legal professional steered in any other case.”
Mr. Brafman stated the one allegation in opposition to his consumer pertains to the developer’s residence the place Mr. Ulrich nonetheless lives. “As I’ve stated beforehand, it was rented by Mr. Ulrich at market price properly earlier than he turned buildings commissioner.”
Mr. Ulrich has had his personal connection to the Gambino household, courtroom papers present. In 2014, when he was a Republican Metropolis Council member representing the Queens district that features Ozone Park and Howard Seaside, he used his official stationery to ask a federal decide for leniency within the sentencing of a Gambino soldier, William M. Pazienza.
Mr. Pazienza, generally known as Previous Man Willy, had pleaded responsible to racketeering costs in a scheme to recruit girls from Japanese Europe to work as dancers at mob-controlled New York strip golf equipment. His felony historical past traced to 1977 and included arrests for selling prostitution and weapons possession, metropolis data present.
Mr. Ulrich advised the decide he had recognized Mr. Pazienza for seven years and thought of him “a private pal.”
“On a couple of event, I’ve witnessed his fatherly-like demeanor and total good character,” Mr. Ulrich wrote. “In my trustworthy estimation, Mr. Pazienza is a form particular person and devoted household man.”
Mr. Pazienza’s son, William Pazienza Jr., a limousine driver, in response to marketing campaign finance data, was additionally a number of the August 2021 fund-raiser for Mr. Adams. Members of the Mazzio household have additionally donated generously to Mr. Adams, the data present.
A lawyer for Mr. Ulrich, Samuel M. Braverman, has stated he wouldn’t reply to the allegations in opposition to his consumer earlier than seeing the fees in an indictment. On Friday, he referred to that assertion when requested for remark.
A number of makes an attempt to achieve the Livreris on Monday in particular person and by telephone had been unsuccessful; staff at their restaurant and a girl at Anthony Livreri’s home in Queens stated they both had no remark or had been unavailable.
Mr. Mazzio’s lawyer, James R. Froccaro, stated his consumer “had achieved nothing mistaken, and he completely maintains his innocence.”
The mayor has beforehand proven a willingness to miss questionable, and even felony conduct, amongst his appointees, associates and donors. He tapped Mr. Ulrich to guide the scandal-scarred Buildings Division in Might 2022 regardless of a historical past of questionable conduct for an individual holding a commissioner-level place.
Mr. Ulrich has acknowledged that he as soon as had a consuming drawback and can be an admitted gambler. Earlier than he was appointed buildings commissioner, it was extensively reported that in 2018, he wrote a letter to a second federal decide on official stationery on behalf of one other mob determine: a Bonanno household affiliate awaiting sentencing on loan-sharking costs.
Mr. Ulrich has advised prosecutors that the mayor delivered a warning to him concerning the inquiry, although Mr. Adams has denied doing so or figuring out of the investigation earlier than its existence was reported.
The case in opposition to Mr. Ulrich is considered one of two Mr. Bragg is overseeing which have reached into the mayor’s internal circle. The opposite entails an alleged scheme to recruit and reimburse particular person straw donors to Mr. Adams’s mayoral marketing campaign to illegally get hold of cash from town’s public matching funds program. Dwayne Montgomery, a longtime pal of Mr. Adams’s, is amongst these charged within the case.
The information group The Metropolis not too long ago recognized plenty of different questionable contributions to Mr. Adams’s marketing campaign from donors who stated both that they didn’t know who they had been donating to or that the donations had been made of their names with out their data.
Nate Schweber contributed reporting from Queens, and Susan C. Beachy contributed analysis.