Volume 75, Number 33 | January 4 - 10, 2006

Two housing officials charged in Soutbridge scam

Southbridge Towers, located just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, is a Mitchell-Lama co-op
Villager file photo

By Albert Amateau

Two officials of the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal were named in December in separate but related federal conspiracy and mail fraud cases charging them with defrauding Southbridge Towers, the 1,651-unit Mitchell-Lama co-op in Lower Manhattan where they live.

Mark Marcucilli, assistant director of housing management at D.H.C.R., was charged on Dec. 20 with defrauding Southbridge and the federal Lower Manhattan Development Corporation by fraudulently obtaining L.M.D.C. money intended for residents affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack.

Two of the counts in the 30-page complaint charge Marcucilli with illegally obtaining a Southbridge Towers apartment by falsely stating that his father lived with him in the co-op and then getting an L.M.D.C. grant “in excess of $1,000” for his father, who actually lived in Yonkers.

Other counts in the complaint charge Marcucilli with helping a friend illegally obtain and then sublet an apartment at Southbridge and subsequently helping the friend get an L.M.D.C. grant based on a false claim that the friend livid in the co-op.

A week later, Jody Wolfson, an assistant housing management representative at D.H.C.R. and an elected member of the Southbridge co-op board of directors, was charged with using the U.S. mail to illegally and fraudulently sell her Southbridge apartment for $150,000 as part of a conspiracy with Marcucilli. Another count in the 15-page complaint charges Wolfson with fraudulently obtaining a larger apartment at Southbridge by falsely stating that her mother and nephew were members of the household.

Marcucilli and Wolfson were released on their own recognizance pending outcomes of separate grand jury presentations.

Jennifer Farina, a D.H.C.R. spokesperson, said Marcucilli and Wolfson were suspended from their housing management positions and were given other duties in the Lower Manhattan office of the agency pending resolution of their cases.

Neither Marcucilli’s lawyer, Jesse Barab, nor Wolfson’s lawyer, Frank Loverro, returned calls to The Villager for comment.

The case against Marcucilli, a D.H.C.R. employee since 1989 and assistant director of housing management at the agency since 1999, involves two unnamed co-conspirators, one of whom is obviously Wolfson, who works under his supervision at D.H.C.R. That count charges that Marcucilli was a go-between and was the notary in the sale of Wolfson’s apartment. The illegal sale involved a false statement that Wolfson lived with the person who bought the apartment.

The complaints are the results of investigations by the New York State Inspector General’s Office, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Postal Service and the office of U.S. Attorney, according to a statement by Michael Garcia, U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Southbridge is a limited-equity Mitchell-Lama co-op in which residents must file income and household membership documents. Residents are not permitted to sell their apartments on the open market and succession rights for members of a household are limited. Mitchell-Lama co-ops like Southbridge are under D.H.C.R. supervision, and the agency has an official seat on the co-op board.

The case was brought in federal court because the alleged conspiracy involved use of the U.S. mail. If found guilty, the defendants face maximum prison terms of 20 years.

For the past several years, Southbridge residents have been deeply divided over whether the co-op should buy out of the state-supervised Mitchell-Lama program and be able to sell their co-op shares at market rate.

At the end of October, Southbridge co-operators voted 740 to 353 in favor of a $25,000 study of the effects of taking the co-op private. The vote forced the co-op board of directors to back off an immediate decision to apply for a J-51 tax abatement that would have locked the co-op into the Mitchell-Lama program, a move that would have prevented privatization for 20 years. Most of the current board, including Wolfson, is against privatization.

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