2008-02-29 / Front Page

Teen Advisor Busted For Scamming Contractors

By Howard Schwach

An Arverne man, who worked with local teens until last August, was busted by an undercover investigator at the McDonald's in Far Rockaway this week for scamming contractors out of thousands of dollars.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau identified the man as Kyle Correll, 40, of 51-23 Beach Channel Drive. Correll, also known as Ibrahim Adbul Haqq, was arrested on Tuesday morning by an undercover investigator for the DA's squad, posing as a contractor, who was coerced into making a payment to Correll and his partner, identified in court papers as Anthony Lewis of Brooklyn.

The indictment charges that the two men used an organization they called The Committee on Contract Compliance as a mechanism to extort money from building contractors throughout the city, by threatening to report fake violations at job sites. Many of the contractors who were scammed by the duo, sources say, were members of minority groups or immigrants, primarily from Asia and the Middle East.

If the contractor refused the payoff, court records show, the men would call city agencies, such as the Fire Department and Department of Buildings, which would respond and sometimes find real violations, but not necessarily those reported by Correll and his partner.

Most contractors recognized the threats as a scam, but still paid off rather than face problems with city agencies, the DA's office said.

In April of last year, Correll began to work with a local program called "The United Basketball Initiative," a mix of sports and education for teenagers that ran at the Ocean-Bay Houses.

According to Jeff Wilder, who ran the program, Correll was hired to advise the teens in the program on such issues as conflict resolution and violence prevention.

"Our goal is to teach them to be responsible, stay out of trouble, and to educate them in a positive manner," Wilder, who was not involved with Correll in the scam, told The Wave last year.

This week, Wilder told The Wave that he first met Correll when the two of them played for the Beach Channel High School varsity basketball team more than 20 years ago.

Wilder said he knew of Correll's company and always had a suspicion that "it was a scam." He added that Correll has not worked in the program since last summer.

"We had a falling out and he quit in August," Wilder said, adding that the two parted company over Corrells' other activities.

While the names of the contractors taken in the scam were not provided in the court papers, those papers revealed that a Rockaway contractor building on "waterfront property" was approached and told that he had several violations on his development. The developer "hired" the duo and paid them more than $10,000 over several months. He said that he experienced "no further problems with city agencies," and was able to complete his development.

The fake inspectors dressed in hardhats marked "Committee on Contract Compliance" and carried clipboards. They used video cameras, and looked "official," court papers say. They sometimes visited as many as a dozen worksites in one day.

"If they were successful and got money, they were happy," an assistant district attorney said. "If they weren't successful, they just moved on to the next site."

Prosecutors said that the payoffs ranged from $300 to $10,000 from a total of 16 victims listed anonymously in the indictment.

In a prepared statement, Morgenthau said, "Instead of using violence as a weapon to extort against minority contractors, these defendants abused the government process by threatening or lodging false complaints with city and federal agencies. Those agencies had no choice but to respond, and played into the hands of the defendants."

Correll and Lewis were charged with enterprise corruption, grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud.

Enterprise corruption is a Class B Felony, which is punishable by up to 25 years in state prison. Grand larceny and scheme to defraud are Class E Felonies, which are punishable by up to four years in state prison.

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