Armed with little more than hard hats and a fancy name, two men posing as building inspectors carried out an extortion scheme that gave a sinister new twist to the idea of civic virtue, prosecutors said Tuesday.
2 Charged With Demanding Payoffs From Contractors
Preying on small contractors — many of them Asian or Middle Eastern — they toured work sites and threatened to report bogus violations unless they were given hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars in payoffs.
If a contractor dared to refuse the payoff, the men would call city agencies, like the Buildings or Fire Departments, which would often find actual violations, though not necessarily the ones that had been called in, prosecutors said in announcing the indictments.
The fake inspectors even learned to mimic the language used by federal inspectors to call in complaints to agencies like the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which does not take complaints from the public, prosecutors said.