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Queens Chronicle

Van Bramer restores some faith in pols

Councilman reports alleged bribe try

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Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu May 30, 2013.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) reported a hint-hint-nudge-nudge email to the Department of Investigation, leading to bribery charges filed against a Long Island City business owner.

Michael Wolfert, owner of the yet-to-open Cliffs Climbing and Fitness Center, was charged with bribery in the third degree and unlawful continuance.

In April, Van Bramer said his office received an email from Wolfert asking the councilman to intervene to remove a Department of Buildings stop-work order. In return he could use the gym for future events.

“I read it over and over,” Van Bramer said. “There was no way to read that email and not conclude there was an essence of quid pro quo and that there was a bribe in there that was obviously illegal.”

The councilman reported the email to the DOI, which sent an employee, posing as a DOB inspector, to the business.

“I didn’t do anything super or spectacular,” Van Bramer said. “I was honest, which is my responsibility as a representative of my district.”

According to the DOI report, the undercover investigator spoke to Wolfert about permits needed to continue construction.

“Whatever I can do to help out,” Wolfert allegedly said. “You tell me.” He allegedly handed the investigator $94.

Then on April 30, the undercover individual returned to the rock-climbing gym to report that the stop-work order had been rescinded. Wolfert, who could not be reached for comment, then allegedly handed him $1,000 in hundred-dollar bills.

The investigator also noted that construction of the gym had continued between the time of the stop work order issuance and the second visit.

“We’re grateful that at a time when some people are succumbing to corruption, this was reported to DOI,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said.

This comes on the heels of the alleged bribery scandals involving several Queens politicians.

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