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A damning case: Ex-Buildings Commish Eric Ulrich ‘lined his pockets’ throughout public service career, DA Bragg alleges

Sep. 13, 2023 by Dean Moses and Ethan Stark-Miller

Former City Buildings Department Commissioner Eric Ulrich was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday on bribery charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office against him and six others.

Ulrich, 38, surrendered at One Hogan Place just after 7 a.m. on Sept. 13 to face the culmination of almost a year-long investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the city Department of Investigation (DOI). 

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg accused the former Queens Council member of allegedly misusing his authority throughout his career — not only as Buildings Commissioner, but in every position of power he has held over the years. Ulrich stands accused of a variety of crimes, including extensive bribery and illegal gambling practices.

DA Bragg arrives at his office. Photo by Dean Moses

“We allege that Eric Ulrich accepted or solicited more than $150,000 worth of bribes in less than two years by monetizing each elected and appointed role he held in New York City government. At every possible turn, he allegedly used his taxpayer-funded positions as City Council member, then senior mayoral advisor, and finally Department of Buildings Commissioner to line his pockets,” Bragg said.

“Government officials must abide by the law and uphold their duty to the people of New York. Particularly when a public servant runs an agency that affects the lives of millions – from residents of apartments to the workers that build them – we must hold them to the highest standard,” he added.

Ulrich allegedly criminally utilized his political power to aid his friends and associates for monetary gain and other favors, and is now facing five separate indictments including conspiracy, bribe receiving and offering a false instrument for filing.

His alleged associates, also facing bribery counts, include business owners Joseph Livereri, 55, Michael Mazzio, 54, real estate developer, Mark Caller, 51, DOB representative Paul Grego, 73, and former Department of Correction Officer Victor Truta, 53. 

Eric Ulrich was taken to court in handcuffs. Photo by Dean Moses

According to court documents, these individuals are accused of offering Ulrich both cash and gifts, which Bragg charges was used to fund gambling and illegal casinos. Ulrich allegedly also failed to file his annual financial disclosures from 2017 to 2021.

The DA’s office stated that Ulrich used his position of prevalence to expedite health inspections for the Livreri brother’s restaurant “Aldo’s Pizza” and at the Livreri brother’s request remove a vacate order for “Fortunato Brothers Bakery,” which was shut down due to a fire.

Bragg added that Ulrich allegedly used his position to resolve licensing issues with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for his associate Mazzio’s towing company, secured a city position for Mazzio’s daughter (including a $20,000 raise) and gave his associates access to high-ranking government officials through events and dinners. 

DA Bragg charged that Ulrich operated a bribery scheme. Photo by Dean Moses

Ulrich is accused of helping Caller’s real estate development firm by influencing NYC Department of City Planning to secure zoning and pushing the DOB and NYC Fire Department all in the hopes that an inspection would vacate a commercial lot so that Caller could build a residential and commercial building in Rockaway Park.

In return Caller, reportedly a big-dollar donor to Mayor Eric Adams, allegedly secured Ulrich a discounted apartment in a luxury Rockaway building.

Prosecutors alleged that Ulrich issued a “Temporary Certificate of Occupancy” in order for Grego’s clients to secure a state liquor license and attempted to hire and assign personnel based on Grego’s preference.

In exchange, Grego provided a painting by Salvador Dali’s only surviving apprentice Francisco Poblet as a gift for Ulrich’s girlfriend. Court documents also showed that Ulrich accepted money from Truta in exchange for securing jobs for his friend’s family members.

Eric Ulrich was taken to court in handcuffs. Photo by Dean Moses

In addition to money being gifted to Ulrich, he also allegedly received a $10,000 valued premium season ticket package to the New York Mets.

“When a public servant runs an agency that affects the lives of literally millions,” Bragg added. “We must hold them to the highest standards. And certainly, we must hold them to the law. And that’s what we are doing here today.”

Appearing in court just after 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 13, after being led through the halls of 100 Centre St. in handcuffs, Ulrich was ordered to give up his passport and inform Bragg’s office of any travel plans lasting more than three days. He pleaded not guilty on all counts while appearing stern-faced as his attorney, Sam Braverman, placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

The present defendants were released on their own recognizance.

Ulrich stepped down from his post in the Buildings Department last fall when prosecutors seized his cell phone in relation to the DA’s investigation into his alleged wrongdoing. Previously, he had served as a senior advisor to Adams.

Eric Ulrich, former Buildings commissioner, appeared in court on Wednesday. Photo by Dean Moses

Kazimir Vilenchik replaced Ulrich as DOB boss in an acting capacity; Jimmy Oddo took over as his permanent successor in April.

Ulrich has mostly stayed out of the public eye since leaving the Adams administration. In January, he took to Twitter, now known as X, to announce that he’s become a licensed insurance broker with Ocean Blue Insurance Agency in the Rockaways, selling everything from property to auto insurance policies.

Ulrich’s attorney released a statement via X,  which slammed the DA’s office for getting “what they want from the grand jury, a long list of charges against Mr. Ulrich.”

Braverman went on to note that the grand jury does not allow the defendant to cross-examine witnesses, and only the DA’s evidence is showcased. 

Eric Ulrich, former Buildings commissioner, appeared in court on Wednesday.Photo by Dean Moses

“The only evidence brought forth before it is the evidence of the district attorney choosing. They are not even required to put in evidence that would show that Mr. Ulrich was not guilty, or guilty of only lesser offenses. … When thousands of phone calls and documents are cherry picked and cut into small bits, and then viewed with eyes biased towards guilt, anyone can be made to look bad,” part of Braverman’s statement read. 

He also stressed that Ulrich maintained his innocence throughout the whole proceeding and “looks forward to his day in court where only the evidence matters, not charging documents or press releases.”

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