The former chairman of the board of the Village of Hempstead Housing Authority was arrested Thursday morning, accused of pocketing $100,000 as part of a kickback scheme involving authority contracts, federal officials said.
Cornell Bozier, 56, of North Baldwin, was taken into custody by agents of the inspector general’s office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the FBI, officials said.
Federal prosecutors said more than $500,000 in federal funds were stolen in the scheme. A number of other people have previously pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation into the theft of the funds.
Bozier pleaded not guilty at arraignment in federal court in Central Islip to a four-count indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of bribery when engaged in work as a government official.
“The corruption and betrayal of the public trust detailed in the indictment was compounded by the fact that the defendant allegedly orchestrated this scheme to line his pockets with money stolen from a federal program that provides low-income families with safe and affordable housing,” Eastern District U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers said in a statement.
Regional head of the HUD inspector generals’ office, Christina Scaringi, said: “Bid-rigging schemes such as those . . . not only deprive businesses of fair competition, they damage the integrity of HUD programs established to help those in need.”
Bozier’s attorney, Brian Griffin, of Garden City, said after the arraignment: “Mr. Bozier pleaded not guilty and . . . we are going to mount a vigorous defense. He served on the housing authority as a volunteer . . . . Clearly money is not a motivating factor.”
Assistant United States Attorney Paul Scotti declined to comment.
Among the bribery counts: Bozier is accused of pocketing $55,000 for the 2011 cost of roofing for an authority building, the indictment said. The authority paid out about $250,000 for the job, Capers said. But a subcontractor did the roofing for $23,000, and Bozier and conspirators divided the rest, Capers said.
Bozier was on the authority board from 2009 to 2011, and served as chairman from then until he resigned in 2013, according to federal officials. At the time of his resignation, HUD was investigating the housing authority. But Bozier said his resignation was unrelated to the investigation because he had moved out of the village.
Debra Urbano-DiSalvo, the Hempstead Village attorney, said Thursday that the village put in new leadership at the authority when it became aware of the federal investigation.
While “it’s very sad that this had to happen,” she said of the arrest, it shows the new board’s cooperation with authorities to “identify and pursue any corruption and mismanagement.”
Bozier was appointed by Mayor Wayne Hall who was unavailable immediately for comment.
In a statement, Commissioner Andrena Wyatt, Chairwoman, Board of Commissioners, Hempstead Housing Authority said:
“The new leadership of Hempstead Housing Authority has been working cooperatively with the HUD Inspector General and FBI to identify and pursue the corruption and mismanagement that, sadly, drove the operations of this housing authority for too many years.”
The authority’s former executive director, Stacey Stackhouse, pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy last November in connection with approving vastly inflated bids for repairs on authority buildings. Stackhouse and the others are awaiting sentencing.
Bozier was released on $150,000 bond secured by his mother’s house in Hempstead, pending further hearings.
If convicted of the charges, Bozier could face up to 20 years in prison, but would probably face a lesser sentence.
With John Asbury and Stefanie Dazio