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Bespoke Suits, Spanish Art: NYC Mayor’s Ex-Adviser Accused of Brazen Bribery

Bryan Thomas/Getty Images
Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

The former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Buildings was indicted Wednesday on charges he traded favors and influence for more than $150,000 in cash and gifts, including a premium New York Mets season ticket package, a discounted beachfront apartment in Queens, a “bespoke suit,” and a painting by the last surviving apprentice of legendary Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí.

Eric Ulrich, who resigned in November after being questioned by local investigators who seized his cell phone, has “misus[ed] his authority in every public service position he held,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement of facts submitted to New York County Supreme Court Justice Daniel P. Conviser.

Ulrich, 38, was elected to the New York City Council in 2009, a position he held until the end of 2021. In January 2022, Mayor Eric Adams brought Ulrich on as a senior adviser, six months after which Ulrich, a Republican, was appointed Buildings commissioner. On Wednesday morning, he surrendered to authorities on multiple counts of conspiracy, bribe receiving, and offering a false instrument for filing. Ulrich reportedly arrived at the DA’s office toting a copy of the book Killing Jesus: A History, by conservative firebrand and onetime Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

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Six others were charged alongside Ulrich, on various counts of bribery: brothers Joseph and Anthony Livreri, who own a pizzeria in Ozone Park; Brooklyn real estate developer Mark Caller; former New York City Department of Correction Victor Truta; Paul Grego, who expedites permit and plan approvals at the Buildings Department; and a Brooklyn man named Michael Mazzio, who operates a company called Mike’s Heavy Duty Towing Inc. The indictments are the end result of a two-year investigation by Bragg’s office and the New York City Department of Investigation.

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Ulrich, Mazzio, and the Livreris were co-hosts of a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Adams in August 2021 at a catering hall in Howard Beach. Adams is reportedly on some of the wiretapped conversations picked up by investigators; he has not been accused of, or charged with, a crime.

Ulrich allegedly gave his six co-defendants special access to high-ranking city officials, inviting them to “exclusive events and dinners to demonstrate to them that he could deliver on the promises he had made,” the statement of facts said. In sum, Bragg said Ulrich helped his cronies manipulate city waste collection bids, resolved issues with the city’s Department of Consumer and Workers Protection, expedited building and restaurant inspections, and even got jobs and promotions for his friends’ children.

In July 2020, Ulrich met with Grego at an Italian restaurant near Buildings Department headquarters, after which Grego called an unnamed individual to ask if he was interested in a position as a New York City elevator inspector, the statement of facts said. Grego then called Ulrich to say he had “some names regarding the ‘up and down division,’” according to the filing. Ulrich later allegedly instructed a Buildings Department HR employee that he wanted Grego’s candidate hired, and to flag the application.

Ulrich also got Truta’s nephew a job with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection in exchange for “at least $3,650,” the statement of facts says.

A photo of Eric Ulrich with then-presidential candidate John Kasich (R-OH), eating pizza.

Eric Ulrich (left) with then-presidential candidate John Kasich.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

And when Caller, the real estate developer, needed someone to nudge the Department of City Planning to speed up approvals on a project he was working on in Rockaway Park, Ulrich allegedly greased the skids to make it happen.

In March 2022, while negotiations were ongoing, the statement of facts says Ulrich mentioned to Caller that he needed a new place to live. Caller told Ulrich that he would “figure something out,” after which he offered the then-Adams adviser a partially furnished beachfront two-bedroom, also in Rockaway Park, for a deeply discounted rent of $2,000 a month. He also offered Ulrich the opportunity to buy the residence for $55,000 below list price, to apply the first year’s rent toward a down payment, and to cover all of Ulrich’s closing costs, a total value of about $100,000, according to the statement of facts.

Among other things, Ulrich spent portions of the dirty money “to fund his gambling at public casinos as well as at a private, illegal gambling club… called the 89th Street Café,” in Ozone Park, according to the statement of facts. He also seemed aware that what he was doing was not exactly kosher, based on a “coded” series of conversations intercepted by investigators.

In 2022, Ulrich texted Grego a photo of a painting by former Dalí protege Francisco Poblet, Don Quixote De La Mancha, according to one of the five indictments. The two later discussed, in coded language, how to get the artwork—which was meant to be a gift to Ulrich’s girlfriend—to Ulrich, according to the statement of facts.

“I got the things for you, the painting… That your daughter did,” Grego allegedly said.

“She did, I remember that, yeah… I forgot I left it in the room,” Ulrich replied, the statement of facts alleges.

“I have it in my house,” Grego told Ulrich, who responded, “Alright, no problem. I’ll get it. I’ll get it whenever, no worries. I’ll see you later.”

Ulrich’s attorney Sam Braverman did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, but told various news outlets on Wednesday that his client would be pleading not guilty.

Since resigning in disgrace last year, Ulrich has been putting food on the table by selling insurance, the New York Post reported in January. He recently published a children’s book, If Pets Could Vote, which he said served as a “positive distraction” from his legal troubles.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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