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Ex-NYC Housing Official Took $2.5M in Bribes from Developers

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Wendell Walters, a former assistant commissioner in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the highest-ranking city official to be arrested on public corruption charges during Mayor Bloomberg's 12-year term, has been coming squeaky clean in the court of law as he fulfills his job as a cooperating witness for the government in the case against members of the Brooklyn-based SML Development. Walters has been cooperating with the government since his 2011 arrest and guilty plea to one count each of bribery and racketeering. He admitted to accepting bribes from developers, including cash and a townhouse, looking to sign lucrative contracts offered by the city to develop housing stock.

The Wall Street Journal details how the former honcho's testimony against three members of SML Development is elucidating the alarming extent to which he was bribed, and the items he accepted—from luxury appliances to $2,000 cash in a cigar box to a $250,000 cash bribe from a contractor who was assured his firm would be chosen for two city-funded projects. Walters claims to have accepted at least $2.5 million in bribes during his 13-year career, including also a newly renovated historic Striver's Row townhouse that was sold to him by a developer for the pre-renovation price of $500,000. The Harlem townhouse, in the midsts of forfeiture proceedings by the government, is now worth $1.8 million.

Walters has named one of the three men on trial as passing him a $5,000 bribe, but has not implicated the other two men. Lawyers for the three defendants are arguing that the government's case is built on the testimony of liars looking to reduce their own prison sentences—a valid argument, noting that Walters admitted he was looking for leniency through cooperation. Walters returns to the stand on Tuesday.
· Ex-New York City Housing Official Tells of Bribes [WSJ]
· Ex-NYC housing honcho: I raked in $2.5M in bribes [NYP]