'GODFATHER' SENTENCED TO PRISON
NEW YORK, Dec. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was issued today by
the Office of the Inspector General, School Construction Authority:
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Thomas D. Thacher II, the Inspector General of the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), today announced the sentencing of Spyridon Velentzas, aka "Big Spiros," the alleged "Godfather" of Greek organized crime, resulting from his conviction for lying to the SCA regarding his interests in a construction firm. Velentzas, 56, was sentenced last Wednesday by Acting State Supreme Court Justice Seymour Rotker to one year in prison.
Velentzas was charged with submitting certified statements to the SCA and the Board of Education that falsely concealed the true ownership interest of Velentzas in the Vorrias Construction Enterprises, Inc. The SCA relies on a certified "Prequalification Application" to determine whether or not a company is qualified to bid on SCA contracts. Velentzas pleaded guilty to one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree on Sept. 20.
"Spiros" Velentzas, of Bayside, Queens, who has long been identified as an associate of the Lucchese organized crime family, is alleged to have extensive interests in illegal gambling operations. In the mid- 1970s, Velentzas was shot by a member of the Gambino organized crime family in a dispute over the control of gambling operations in the Greek community of Astoria. In 1988, Velentzas was convicted in connection with a $55 million gasoline bootlegging scheme, one of the largest tax evasion schemes ever prosecuted by the State of New York.
In May of 1991, subsequent to his indictment in Queens in this case, Velentzas was indicated for racketeering by a Federal grand jury in Brooklyn along with nine other men. The indictment, which is still pending, alleges that Velentzas was the leader of the "Velentzas Crime Group" for over 20 years and, in that capacity, directed illegal gambling, loansharking and extortion rackets preying chiefly upon the Greek community.
In addition to his other interests, Velentzas acquired a controlling interest in Vorrias Construction Enterprises, Inc., in 1988. Vorrias specialized in constructing New York City schools. However, most city agencies will not award contracts to companies owned or controlled by someone with Velentzas' background.
"Velentzas knew that if revealed his interest in the Vorrias Enterprises, the Board of Education would have barred the company from receiving contracts," Inspector General Thacher said. "He lied and he directed others to lie. No doubt he assumed that the board would not find out the truth."
For a time, Velentzas' deception worked and the Board of Education continued to award business to Vorrias. However, in 1989 the new School Construction Authority took over the business of school construction for the Board of Education. Velentzas evidently assumed that his deception was still viable and, in 1990, had his confederates repeat their lies in filing the Prequalification Application required by the SCA. This would prove to be his undoing.
"When he created the SCA, Governor Mario M. Cuomo mandated that a high priority be placed on detecting and preventing fraud, corruption and racketeering. The SCA's Inspector General's Office was one result of the Governor's mandate, the Prequalification process is another. Together, they allowed us quickly to uncover the truth behind Vorrias Construction Enterprises, Inc.," Thacher added.
Thacher's Office presented its preliminary findings to the Integrity Bureau of the Queens District Attorney's Office and a joint investigation ensued. Ultimately, the investigation resulted in the indictment and conviction of Nicholas Vorrias and the Vorrias Enterprises as well as Velentzas.
"No doubt Velentzas did not seriously consider the consequences for him of lying to the School Construction Authority; he learned the real price for his crime - imprisonment," said District Attorney Brown. "We are continuing to work with the SCA's Inspector General to teach the same lesson to others who try to defraud public agencies."
District Attorney Brown praised the SCA Inspector General's Office for its extraordinary assistance in this case. He noted that the Inspector General's Office continues to work with his Integrity Bureau on a number of other investigations. ADA Raymond V. Casey of District Attorney Brown's Integrity Bureau was the prosecutor.
The School Construction Authority was created by Governor Cuomo in 1989 to design, build and renovate New York City's public schools. Over a five-year period, the SCA will build new schools, construct mini schools and major additions and will modernize existing school facilities throughout the five boroughs. President Arthur Bates of the SCA urged anyone with information regarding corruption or fraud on school construction projects to call the Inspector General's toll-free "Hotline" number: 800-669-9722. All reports to the Hotline are treated confidentially.
/CONTACT: Richard Piperno of the District Attorney's Office, 718-520-5501, or Thomas D. Thacher II of the Office of the Inspector General, School Construction Authority, 212-901-6680/ CO: New York City School Construction Authority ST: New York IN: SU: FC-KW -- NY056 -- 4904 12/23/91 15:05 EST