More Problems For NYC's Ex-Top Cop

Kerik
CBS
Bernard Kerik once enjoyed a national reputation as a brash, self-made law enforcer. As New York's police commissioner, he was at Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's side during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. By late 2004, President Bush wanted him for homeland security chief.

Kerik's fame faded after allegations of ethical lapses doomed his nomination. His troubles, however, have endured.

A grand jury in the Bronx has been hearing testimony about a possible corruption case against Kerik involving reputed mob associates, alleged influence peddling and a questionable home-renovation project.

The Bronx District Attorney's office refused this week to comment on speculation that the grand jury could soon charge Kerik with abusing his authority while a top city official, or to discuss any aspect of the case. But defense lawyers confirmed that their clients had testified during the past several weeks.

Among the witnesses was Timothy Woods, a contractor who supervised a project to convert two apartments — bought by Kerik in 1999 for $170,000 — into one home. Kerik, who was commissioner of the city's Department of Correction when the work was done, sold the home for $460,000 in 2002 after real estate advertisements described it as a "gem" adorned with marble and granite.

In a civil complaint filed last year, New Jersey authorities now working with the Bronx prosecutors alleged that most of the $240,000 renovation was secretly paid for by a construction firm in that state with ties to the Mafia, Interstate Industrial Corp. In return, Kerik allegedly vouched for Interstate with city regulators, charges both he and the company's owners, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, vehemently deny.

"Everything in that complaint was completely false," said the owners' attorney, Thomas Durkin Jr.

The DiTommaso brothers, who gave grand jury testimony earlier this year, insist "there was never, never, never any conversation about Woods doing the work and Interstate paying for it," the lawyer said.

Woods, who last spoke to prosecutors May 15, told a different story: According to his attorney, Kyle Watters, the contractor claimed Kerik paid only about $30,000 — and that Interstate footed the rest of the bill.

Because so much work was being done for so little, "the inference at least is that Kerik had to know" he was being underwritten, Watters said.

But Kerik's attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said his client never struck a deal.

"He paid every bill he ever got for the apartment," he said. "He committed no crime. He didn't attempt to influence anyone."

Kerik's woes began almost immediately after the White House nominated him in December 2004 to replace Tom Ridge as head of the Department of Homeland Security.

There were questions about his $6.2 million windfall from exercising stock options in a stun-gun company that did business with the government. There also were reports that during his 18-month tenure as police commissioner he had simultaneous extramarital affairs with two women, including the publisher of his memoir.

Kerik cited immigration and tax issues over a former nanny as the reason for withdrawing his name only a week after his nomination. He later resigned from Giuliani's high-powered consulting firm and started his own security business doing work in Jordan and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

More problems surfaced in November, when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement filed court papers seeking to revoke Interstate Industrial's license to work on casinos in Atlantic City, N.J. The papers cited testimony by mob turncoats that the DiTommaso brothers were associates of the Gambino organized crime family.

The civil complaint also detailed Kerik's cozy relationship with an Interstate official. In 1999, he sent a series of e-mails to the official that "indicated his lack of sufficient funds to both purchase and renovate his new Bronx apartment," and "indicated he would provide information to Frank DiTommaso regarding New York City contracts," the papers said.

Kerik later met with a regulator at the city's Trade Waste Commission, which was investigating Interstate, telling him was interested in "alleviating the agency's concerns" about the firm, the papers said. (The official has said he didn't believe Kerik improperly tried to influence him, Kerik's lawyer said.)

The complaint said when the gaming division sought answers and documents from Kerik, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.