FBI Raids Offices, Homes of Two FDNY Building Inspections Chiefs

Feb. 16, 2024
Assistant Chief Anthony Saccavino and Deputy Chief Brian Cordasco were sidelined as a federal bribery probe continues.

Michael Gartland, Chris Sommerfeldt, Thomas Tracy

New York Daily News


Two FDNY chiefs in charge of building safety inspections were pulled from their jobs and put on modified assignment Thursday amid a federal probe of possible bribery involving safety inspections, the Daily News has learned.

FDNY Assistant Chief Anthony Saccavino and Deputy Assistant Chief Brian Cordasco were sidelined after the FBI raided both their homes as well as the Fire Prevention Bureau offices in FDNY Headquarters in downtown Brooklyn Thursday morning, said sources.

Saccavino is head of the FDNY’s Fire Prevention Bureau. Cordasco works under Saccavino.

The city’s Department of Investigation is investigating whether the two men received about $100,000 in bribes to speed up fire inspections for building developers, officials said.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens reached out to the city’s Department of Investigation in April 2023 to report they’d heard rumors of bribe-taking in safety inspections, said an FDNY source.

The department confirmed Kavanagh had asked for a DOI probe.

“The FDNY’s first priority is always keeping New Yorkers safe, and we expect every member of the department to act appropriately,” an FDNY spokeswoman said. “Commissioner Kavanagh has proactively placed the employees at the center of this investigation on modified duty, and we are awaiting guidance from DOI regarding further action.”

The DOI said it had received a report about the possible bribery from the Fire Department, but declined to comment further.

Neither man has been charged with any crimes as the investigation continues.

For months, Kavanagh and other officials heard nothing about their initial report, said an FDNY source. Then, in October, the FDNY received an anonymous tip about the bribes, which officials forwarded to the Department of Investigation, which probes fraud, corruption and waste in city government.

On Thursday morning, the DOI reached out to Kavanagh and asked that Saccavino and Cordasco’s phones be turned off and their offices be sealed, the source said.

FBI investigators confiscated the work and personal cell phones of the two chiefs. The feds also locked down the fourth floor of FDNY Headquarters, where the Fire Prevention Bureau offices are located, and for several hours looked over records there.

It was not immediately disclosed if any computer records were seized.

News of the investigation stunned some FDNY officials, who never suspected Cordasco or Saccavino of receiving payoffs. The two men are longtime members of the Bureau of Fire Prevention and held in high regard. Their tenure in the bureau predates Kavanagh’s appointment as fire commissioner.

“I don’t see them as the guys who took the bribes,” said one FDNY official who worked with the two men and didn’t want to be named. “They’re the guys who took the inspections. Somebody else tells them that ‘Building ABC gets inspected tomorrow,’ and they say ‘OK’ and get the people out there. I don’t see them as part of a conspiracy.”

Multiple sources told the Daily News that the probe of Cordasco and Saccavnio is not related to allegations around the deputy mayor of operations list, also known as the DMO list, in which officials of Mayor Adams’ administration are suspected of identifying developments run by friends of the mayor and putting them ahead of others.

The DMO-list fire inspection process came under scrutiny in November in the wake of disclosures about the resolution of building safety issues that in 2021 stalled the opening of the Turkish Consulate  on First Ave. near the United Nations building in Manhattan. In 2021, Adams was still the Brooklyn borough president; he took office as mayor in January 2022.

Mayor Adams has confirmed that he asked former Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro to look into the status of building safety violations that were preventing the Turkish Consulate from opening. Adams said the outreach was part of his normal duties as an elected official.

When word of the Turkish Consulate issue became news in November, a federal investigation had been launched into Adams’ campaign. The feds seized the mayor’s cellphones and raided the home of Adams’ top campaign fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, as part of the probe. No charges have been filed in the matter.

Saccavino took over the Bureau of Fire Prevention after Kavanagh demoted FDNY Chief Joseph Jardin amid a shakeup of the upper ranks. Jardin was one of three chiefs demoted in rank in February 2023, sparking turmoil among the FDNY’s staff chiefs.

Saccavino and Cardasco were neither critical of the demotions, nor did they support the move, sources said. “They just kept doing their work,” said an FDNY official.

Word of the Deputy Mayor of Operations list came to light in a sweeping ageism lawsuit Jardin and other chiefs filed against Kavanagh and the city last March.

“Jardin and others learned that the DMO list—at the behest of the Real Estate Board of New York—was being used to fast-track inspections for ‘friends’ of City Hall,” the lawsuit reads. “These ‘friends’ were prominent and influential real estate developers.”

Jardin claimed he was pressured to press for approval of an inspection at the new Turkish Consulate building, even though the fire safety system wasn’t functioning. Jardin never approved the permit, but finally agreed to file a letter of non-objection regarding the alarm system — a decision his lawyer, Jim Walden, said Jardin carried out under duress.

That letter allowed the Department of Buildings to give the property a temporary certificate of occupancy if the system was properly installed and tested.

Jardin felt his job was on the line if he didn’t do what City Hall wanted regarding the Turkish Consulate, Walden said.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment Thursday on their investigation into the two chiefs. Saccavino couldn’t be reached. Repeated calls to Cordasco were not returned.

“City Hall became aware of this operation when we were notified by FDNY this morning,” mayoral spokesman Charles Lutvak said. “The FDNY continues to cooperate with DOI, and there is no indication of any direct connection to anyone at City Hall.”

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