BOSTON - A Lowell man was convicted today in federal court of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for assisting in awarding federally funded neighborhood rehabilitation work to a contractor.
Gabriel Felix Cortes, 51, pleaded guilty to three counts of soliciting and accepting bribes in connection with federally-funded neighborhood revitalization contracts, and one count of witness intimidation.
In 2011, Cortes was employed at separate times by two community development non-profit corporations: Oak Hill Community Development Corporation and South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation. From 2009 through 2011 both non-profit corporations received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for lead paint removal and residential and neighborhood revitalization and rehabilitation projects.
Cortes’ job included soliciting bids from contractors for such work. One of the contractors began cooperating with an investigation into HUD-funded work, wearing recording devices to meetings with Cortes. At a meeting in April 2011, Cortes solicited the contractor, who then paid Cortes $1,500 in exchange for Cortes’ assistance in getting an $80,000 contract at a Crown Street, Worcester residence. When the contractor did not win the bid, Cortes told him that, if Cortes had to, he would return “the thing you gave me,” an apparent reference to the $1,500.
At a meeting in June 2011, Cortes told the contractor what amount to bid on three federally-funded projects, including one at a Colton Street, Worcester residence. Cortes said during a recorded meeting that he wanted the contractor to win the Colton Street contract, and stated, “I have to give you something because I didn’t give you the other one.”
At an August 2011 meeting, Cortes and the contractor discussed the fact that Cortes had heard from other contractors that federal agents were asking questions about whether Cortes was soliciting bribes. During a recorded meeting, Cortes told the contractor that if federal agents should ask the contractor whether he gave Cortes money “you just got to deny that. You’re not going to say, ‘yeah.’”
At a recorded meeting on July 16, Cortes instructed the contractor to submit two bids for work at a Camp Street, Worcester residence: one for himself in the amount of $21,000 and one for another contractor in the amount of $23,500, and solicited a bribe of $1500. That same day, during a recorded meeting, the contractor paid Cortes a $1,000 bribe, and a week later, a second installment of $500.
In December 2011, Cortes was arrested at a recorded meeting with the contractor at which the contractor paid Cortes another bribe of $400 in anticipation of bidding on another federally-funded project. Agents recovered the $400 bribe from Cortes at the arrest.
U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor scheduled sentencing for Sept. 7, 2012. Cortes faces up to 20 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Cortez Richards, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General and Richard Deslauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hennessy of Ortiz’s Worcester Branch Office.