- Last Updated: 3:50 AM, May 18, 2013
- Posted: 3:08 AM, May 18, 2013
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer helped bust a businessman on a bribery charge, The Post has learned.
Mike Wolfert, who’s developing a massive indoor rock-climbing center in Queens, allegedly asked Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to pull strings for him after he was slapped with a stop-work order for doing construction work without a permit.
But rather than accept Wolfert’s e-mail offer of “unconditional support” — including access to his company’s Facebook friends and free use of his facility for political events — Van Bramer blew the whistle, prompting a rapid-fire sting operation by the Department of Investigation that nabbed Wolfert within weeks, sources said.
“We’re grateful that, at a time when some people are succumbing to corruption, this was reported to DOI,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said.
According to court papers, on April 16 an undercover DOI investigator posing as a building inspector went to the former Long Island City warehouse that Wolfert is converting into a climbing and fitness center to be called “The Cliffs.”
During a discussion about the permits needed to lift the stop-work order, Wolfert allegedly told the investigator: “Whatever I can do to help out, you tell me what’s fair. I can get you cash or whatever. You tell me. Whatever, I’ll pay it.”
Wolfert, who already runs a branch of “The Cliffs” in Westchester, then allegedly gave the investigator $94 in cash, which a source said was all he had in his pockets at the time.
Two weeks later, the investigator returned to the construction site and told Wolfert he had rescinded the stop-work order, prompting Wolfert to hand over two envelopes stuffed with $500 each, court papers charge.
Wolfert, 38, of Croton-on-Hudson, was arrested Thursday on a felony charge of third-degree bribery. He also was slapped with a misdemeanor charge of “unlawful continuance” based on evidence that “additional construction had been completed” at the site after the stop-work order, according to the Queens criminal court complaint.
Van Bramer, a former newspaper reporter, said he was “uncomfortable” when he read the “disturbing and inappropriate” e-mail from Wolfert, whom he had never met, and immediately contacted the council’s lawyer.
Neither Wolfert, who was released without bail, nor his defense lawyer returned requests for comment.
How the scheme unfolded:
* The Department of Buildings slaps rock-climbing entrepreneur MikeWolfert with a stop-work order for renovating a Long Island City warehouse without a permit.
* Wolfert e-mails Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, promising “unconditional support” in exchange for help getting the stop-work order lifted.
* Van Bramer tells the council’s lawyer about Wolfert’s offer, prompting a sting operation by the Department of Investigation.
* Wolfert is busted for bribery after allegedly handing over more than $1,000 in cash to an undercover investigator posing as a corrupt building inspector.