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Bloomberg LP executives, building contractors arrested in alleged kickback scheme

Anthony Guzzone, the former global head of construction

Anthony Guzzone, the former global head of construction at Bloomberg, is taken into court in Manhattan on Tuesday. Credit: Charles Eckert

Rogue executives from Bloomberg LP conspired with building contractors on Manhattan projects to steal $15 million by inflating bids, generating phony work orders and misappropriating other cash, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Tuesday.

The alleged conspiracy, lasting from May 2011 to October 2017, involved at least 14 people — including three from Long Island — and three companies doing work on 120 Park Ave. and 919 Third Ave., according to the district attorney’s office. The companies named are Hugh O'Kane Electric and Litespeed Electric, both of Manhattan, and Cooling Guard Mechanical of Middle Village, Queens. 

“New York’s sky-high construction costs are driven not only by market demand, but by pay-to-play industry corruption that makes it impossible for honest companies to compete,” the district attorney, Cy Vance, said in a press release.

The projects involved interior office space for Bloomberg LP, the media company owned by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is reportedly considering running in 2020 for president of the United States.

The Long Island defendants are Ronald Olson, 51, of Massapequa, a construction executive;  Louis Squillante, 68, of East Meadow, an operations director for Litespeed; and Hugh R. O’Kane, 41, of Oyster Bay, according to the district attorney’s office.

At successive arraignments lasting nearly two hours Tuesday at Manhattan Criminal Court, each defendant pleaded not guilty and was unhandcuffed and freed on bond as high as $1 million.  

One of the indictments, spanning 47 pages, details a years-long scheme involving kickbacks, a cash-filled envelope, fictitious invoices, no-show jobs, a custom glass tabletop for one of the defendants, bid-rigging, leaking Bloomberg LP’s proprietary information in order to give a co-conspirator a competitive edge, and a false application to qualify set-asides for businesses owned by women or minorities.

According to the indictment, conspirators would sometimes use culinary euphemisms to describe kickbacks.

"When do u think u will be coming with sandwiches," defendant Vito Nigro, 57, of Holmdel, New Jersey, texted an unnamed co-conspirator in 2016. "The crew is hungry and want to eat."

Various charges include grand larceny, money laundering, contract in restraint of trade/monopoly, conspiracy and falsifying business records, all felonies, according to the district attorney’s office.

Prosecutor Christopher J. Beard alleged at court that Anthony Guzzone, Bloomberg LP’s now-former head of global construction, “orchestrated … almost this entire scheme to steal from his employer at every and any opportunity that presented itself.” Beard said Guzzone, 49, of Middletown, New Jersey, “received millions of dollars in kickbacks,” directed underlings to commit crimes, and “basically, quite frankly, built himself a palace out there in Jersey.”

Guzzone’s attorney, Alex Spiro of Manhattan, called the informants who helped build the case against the alleged conspiracy “alcoholics” and “proven liars.”

Ty Trippet, a spokesman for Bloomberg LP, said in an email that the district attorney’s office uncovered “this scheme.”

“This sends a strong message to contractors in New York who engage in fraud: You will be caught,” Trippet said.

The indictments don’t itemize the total amount the conspiracy is alleged to have netted, but the district attorney’s office said it’s $15 million.

“A lot of money,” said Judge Roger S. Hayes of Manhattan, who presided over the arraignments. “These are very serious charges."

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