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Victor Rivera bphn bribes exchange for leasing buildings, $1.2 million in kickbacks

In a $1.2 million bribery scheme, the former head of a New York City shelter is going to jail.

Victor Rivera was given a prison sentence of more than two years because he took bribes while running a homeless shelter in the Bronx.

As the number of homeless people grew, Victor Rivera saw an opportunity to get rich.

Prosecutors say that while Mr. Rivera was the head of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, one of the largest operators of homeless shelters in New York City, he found ways to get his hands on millions of dollars that were meant to help the poor.

He took a cut of the money that was paid to a construction company to fix up shelters. He gave contracts worth millions of dollars to a security company that gave him kickbacks and gave his ex-wife a well-paying job. In exchange for renting one of its buildings, he took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a real estate company that was connected to a former business partner.

Mr. Rivera was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison on Monday for taking about $1.2 million in kickbacks as part of a scheme that ran from 2013 to 2020. During that time, he ran his shelter organization like it was his own empire.

Judge Sidney H. Stein said in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on Monday, "You hurt a big non-profit group." "You made people doubt the effectiveness of government programs to fight poverty. You sent a message that it was OK to fill your own pockets with money."

Victor Rivera, who is 62 years old, admitted that he took kickbacks while running a charity for homeless people.
Victor Rivera, who is 62 years old, admitted that he took kickbacks while running a charity for homeless people.

Mr. Rivera had been sexually and financially abusing people for a long time. This led to Mr. Rivera being fired, arrested, and pleading guilty. Ten women, including homeless people who stayed in his shelters and people who worked for him, said he sexually assaulted and harassed them during a time when he was also getting rich off of money from his nonprofits.

Mr. Rivera told the judge at his sentencing hearing, "I was given a lot of money and a lot of responsibility, and I failed." "I'm really embarrassed and ashamed that I hurt my family and made them look bad."

Mr. Rivera, who is 62 years old, started the Bronx Parent Housing Network in 2000. He used his own story of redemption to make the organization a major player in the city's social services industry. He said that he had been homeless, in jail, and hooked on crack cocaine before he turned his life around and started the charity to help the poor. Since 2017, the city has given Mr. Rivera's group more than $274 million to run homeless shelters.

But when Mr. Rivera got money from the city, he started living like a king. Prosecutors said he made $453,000 a year, and The Times said he drove a Mercedes-Benz that was leased by his nonprofit, gave lucrative contracts to friends and associates, and mixed business between his nonprofits and for-profit companies.

Prosecutors said in court documents about a nonprofit leader that he talked about all the good things he did for the community in public while getting kickbacks in private. The court documents also said which contractors had paid Mr. Rivera, which was similar to what The Times had already said.

David Abramowicz, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, "Mr. Rivera was paid well." "He didn't need anything else. He was not satisfied.

According to court documents, Mr. Rivera took more than $66,000 in bribes from a company called RJP Construction and its owner, Fernando Rodriguez, who is a pastor in the Bronx. He set it up so that RJP could do contracting work in a Bronx shelter building in exchange for 7 percent of the building contract. The bribes were paid to a company run by Mr. Rivera and his ex-wife under the guise of "consulting fees." In a separate health care fraud case, Mr. Rodriguez was charged with a crime and pled guilty.

Mr. Rivera got another $492,000 in kickbacks from a security company called Prime Protective Bureau. This company had contracts worth $12 million to keep watch over the shelters run by the Bronx Parent Housing Network. Prosecutors and Mr. Rivera's lawyer say that Mr. Rivera had the CEO of the security company write checks to his for-profit company, Community Outreach Consulting Firm, and to TLV Consultants, which was run by Mr. Rivera's son.

Court documents show that Mr. Rivera also asked the security company to hire his ex-wife, Lanet Rivera. She had to quit her job at the Bronx Parent Housing Network because of rules about conflicts of interest. Prime Protective Bureau had paid Ms. Rivera more than $372,000 as of last year. A legal filing from Mr. Rivera's lawyer says that the couple, who got married in 2009, broke up because of Mr. Rivera's cheating and the criminal case.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Rivera got nearly $690,000 in kickbacks from a real estate company that had ties to his former business partner, Sheina Levin, according to lease records.

In exchange for renting a shelter building from Urban Residences Corp., Mr. Rivera asked for kickback payments to a consulting firm run by his son, which had "few, if any, business expenses," according to Mr. Rivera's lawyer and the government's sentencing submission. Prosecutors say that Mr. Rivera used most of the money to pay off his home loan.

Lawyers for Ms. Levin did not want to say anything.

Mr. Rivera's lawyer had argued that Mr. Rivera should get probation and community service because of all the good things he had done for others and because he had helped the government. But federal prosecutors said that the shelter owner needed to go to prison to stop other shelter owners from taking advantage of taxpayer money.

Mr. Rivera was found guilty of one count of honest services fraud and given a sentence of 27 months in prison. He must turn himself in on June 30. He also agreed to give up $1.2 million and pay back more than $902,000 to the shelter where he worked.

Mr. Rivera's case is just one example of how hard it has been for New York City to run its $2.6 billion homeless shelter system, which has been plagued by financial mismanagement, especially since the number of people who need shelter has grown so much in recent years.

In a series of articles published last year, The Times showed how other shelter executives, like one who made more than $1 million a year, had personally benefited from the homeless shelters they ran.

In response, officials in New York City said they would do a full audit of the 60 or so homeless shelters in the city to find any financial mismanagement. But after more than a year, that audit is still not done.

In a letter to the court, Flora Montes, one of the women who told The Times that Mr. Rivera had sexually assaulted or harassed her, said that she was glad he was getting punished for his financial crimes, but that the damage from his sexual misconduct would still be there.

Records show that Mr. Rivera's former employee, Ms. Montes, got a $130,000 settlement from his nonprofit in 2019. This meant that she couldn't talk publicly about claims that Mr. Rivera had touched her inappropriately and said sexually charged things to her. He has said that he has not done anything wrong with any woman.

In her letter, Ms. Montes said, "No amount of money can erase the pain caused by a serial abuser who hides behind a mask of authority and power." "No amount of money can take away the disgust I feel toward those who know about the machine he made to help himself, his family, and his friends but aren't willing to stand up and speak out against it."

Since The Times published the first article about Mr. Rivera, five more women have filed lawsuits against him, accusing him of sexual harassment.


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