New York City authorities announced indictments against 24 people and 26 companies Jan. 18 who they said had been involved in a construction bid-rigging and kickback scheme that corrupted the competitive bidding process for dozens of private sector city projects and stole $5 million from project owners over more than eight years. 

The scheme was led by Robert Baselice, who was vice president and project executive at a Secaucus, N.J.-based construction management firm between April 2013 and July 2021, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said during a press conference.

Baselice oversaw Manhattan high-rise projects—including the FiDi Hotel, the Remny, The Six office building, citizenM New York Bowery Hotel, the Fifth Avenue Hotel and the Walker Hotel Tribeca—according to court records. Authorities allege he used his position to include co-conspirator subcontractors on bid lists to his firm’s developer clients. He then shared details of competitors’ bids with the co-conspirator subs and directed them to inflate those bids to include a kickback and “as much profit as possible” based on clients’ budgets, prosecutors say in court records. 

Baselice then lobbied developers to pick his co-conspirator subcontractors and participated in phony negotiations he described as a “dog and pony show” to make it appear he was getting his company’s clients better prices, but would later recommend change orders to generate additional payments and kickbacks, Bragg says.

The scheme resulted in subcontractors getting work they were not qualified to perform, resulting in subpar work, in some cases, prosecutors say. In one example, an HVAC contractor that had only worked on smaller residential jobs was hired to install the heating and cooling system for a 32-story condominium building. Another contractor hired to place concrete foundations for two buildings had to be removed from the projects after failing to pay vendors.

Subs participating in the scheme paid a total of more than $4.2 million in kickbacks to Baselice, which he accepted through a Staten Island-based company called DVA Group LLC, prosecutors say. The firms also paid $2.8 million to entities controlled by Baselice associates Louis Astuto and Paul Noto. They in turn distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to entities owned by Frank Camuso and his family members, Bragg says.

The 50 defendants face a total of 83 counts in the case. All are charged with conspiracy, and some also face varying charges of grand larceny, commercial bribing, commercial bribe receiving, bid-rigging and money laundering. Attorneys for the defendants were not immediately available in court records. 

Baselice’s former employer was not listed as a defendant in the case, nor was it named in court documents. However, archived web pages show he was vice president at Secaucus-based Rinaldi Group during the time of the alleged scheme. 

It ranked on ENR New York’s top contractors list as recently as 2019, with $148 million in regional revenue the year prior. The company fired Baselice last year. 

“When the bidding process is rigged, we all lose,” Bragg said. “The market suffers from a lack of quality competition, developers are prevented from hiring the best companies at fair prices and—importantly—honest, law-abiding companies are pushed out by those that broke the law.”

Ted Diskant, an attorney representing Rinaldi Group, said in a statement that the firm "has no tolerance for unethical or unlawful conduct, has cooperated fully with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigation, and stands ready to assist going forward in any way that it can.” 

Jocelyn Strauber, commissioner of the New York City Dept. of Investigation, said 14 of the entity defendants hold professional licenses with the city Dept. of Buildings, and that the agency would refer the allegations to the buildings dept. for review. The investigations agency is also adding “cautions” to files for 16 of the contractors in the city’s contracting database, to warn officials if the companies seek public work from city agencies.  

One of those firms. demolition and asbestos abatement company Alba Services Inc., is a current contractor for the city, Strauber says. It is prequalified to perform emergency work and has done so on several occasions. DOI is informing city agencies of company involvement in the case.

“This indictment shows that construction firms in this city must operate with honesty and integrity or face consequences,” Strauber says.