Ten current construction supervisors and one recent retired official of Consolidated Edison, the utility serving Manhattan and its northern suburbs, were arrested Jan. 14 for soliciting and accepting more than $1 million in kickbacks from a construction contractor since 2004. Work involved in the bribery scheme also included cleanup and repair of an underground steam pipe that exploded in Manhattan in July 2007, killing one pedestrian, injuring others and causing millions of dollars in damage.

Photo: AP
Repair of steampipe that exploded in Manhattan in 2007 was among work that bribe contractor handled.

Officials in the office of U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell would not identify the contractor, known only as "CW2," but said its president and co-owner, who also not identified, had paid the bribes in exchange for approving payments for work that was never performed. The Con Ed officials "also often demanded "a percentage of the 'extras,' or unearned payments made to the contractor," said Benton. One payment totaled $500,000, Benton says.

Defendants also demanded monthly kickback payments or agreed to direct extra, sometimes, unnecessary work to the contractor in exchange for football game tickets and other expensive gifts. The Con Ed employees, arraigned Jan. 14, entered no pleas and posted bail of $100,000 each.

Officials in the district attorney's office said the contractor executive was "cooperating" in the probe and is expected to plead guilty to charges shortly. They said he wore a recording device while meeting with nine of the defendants.

The arrested Con Ed supervisors work at utility offices in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and in Westchester County. The defendants are Rocco Fassacesia and Paul Sanabria, construction managers; Abraham Panagi, Kevin Cook, James Coffin, Richard Giannetto, and Anthony Villano, senior specialists; Richard Zebler, Leonard Diroma, and Brendan Maher, chief construction inspectors; and Thomas Fetter, a recently retired construction representative.

Kevin Burke. Con Ed chairman, president and CEO, said he was "shocked and disappointed" over the incident and that the utility is "fully cooperating with authorities."

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

At arraignment on Jan. 14, the defendants entered no pleas and were released on $100,000 bail each.