Unmasking the John Does

The New York World’s story looking at the impact of the alleged bribery scheme in programs run by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development hinges on information provided to prosecutors by two unnamed informants, described in court filings as “John Doe 1” and “John Doe 2.” The FBI described both of the John Does as contractors working on projects overseen by HPD assistant commissioner Wendell Walters, and names several construction projects on which they served as general contractor or developer.

With the clues provided in court filings and published news accounts, we set out to identify the John Does, with the objective of better understanding the extent to which the alleged criminal activities within HPD programs may have had a wider impact.

John Doe #1

The New York World identified John Doe #1 as Bogdan Starzecki, aka Bob Starzecki, of MCR Restoration Corp. Here’s how.

The FBI search warrant affidavit for the home and office of city housing official Wendell Walters says:

“Walters contacted John Doe #1 and asked if he would be interested in obtaining the real estate development contract…for the Guy Brewer North Homes project…located in Queens.”

Guy Brewer Development Corp., located at 3205 Philip Avenue in the Bronx, is registered care of MCR Restoration Corp. at the same address. A financing statement made in connection with 19 Queens properties that include the Guy Brewer North model home at 162-23 108th Avenue shows Guy Brewer Development Corp. as the debtor.

Starzecki was the general contractor on these projects.

An article in the New York Daily News also names “Bob” Starzecki as owner of Guy Brewer Development Corp.

The search warrant identifies other Department of Housing Preservation and Development “clusters” on which John Doe #1 served as general contractor.

Building permit records also tie Starzecki to these projects.

Starzecki did not return repeated calls from The New York World made to his home, attorney’s and business numbers. When The New York World visited his Bronx company, MCR Restoration, a worker said that he could not call Starzecki.

John Doe #2

The New York World identified John Doe #2 as George Armstrong, CEO, Metropolis Development Corp., and former President and CEO of the New York City Housing Partnership. How we did it:

The FBI search warrant affidavit for the home and office of city housing official Wendell Walters identifies John Doe #2 as someone who “worked at a New York City non-profit organization that partners with HPD in, among other things, identifying local developers for affordable housing projects…eventually becoming president of the non-profit.”

George Armstrong worked at the New York City Housing Partnership for 1996 to 2002 and was for part of that time president and CEO of the organization.

The search warrant affidavit also says that John Doe #2 “was awarded the Jerome Stone project, located in Manhattan.”

An official solicitation offering renovated Harlem buildings for sale as part of the Jerome Stone Project lists the addresses for the properties. Building permits for the 149 West 136th St., 211 West 121st St., 265 West 113th St., and 239 West 137th St. address in the cluster, show that general contractor permits were held by George Armstrong of Metropolis Development.

The New York World visited George Armstrong at his home in Staten Island, where he declined to discuss details of the Walters case. Armstrong told The World he was involved in several court cases pertaining to his business dealings with HPD.

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