Former New York City chief crane inspector admits taking payoffs to fake inspection results

By Jennifer Peltz, AP
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ex-NYC crane inspector pleads guilty to bribery

NEW YORK — New York City’s former chief crane inspector has admitted taking more than $10,000 in payoffs to fake inspection and crane operator licensing exam results.

James Delayo pleaded guilty Tuesday to receiving bribes. He showed no emotion as he read a short statement in court acknowledging his crime.

Delayo is to be sentenced May 4. He faces two to six years in prison.

“As a former City crane inspector, this defendant was paid and obligated to safeguard the public,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn. “Instead, he sold out and compromised public safety for tainted cash.”

Delayo was arrested when officials scrutinized the city’s oversight of cranes after two of the rigs collapsed and killed people in 2008. But the charges against him weren’t tied to the collapses.

He admitted taking bribes for years to file phony paperwork indicating a Long Island crane company had passed inspections that hadn’t been done and saying an employee had passed a licensing exam the worker hadn’t even taken.

Delayo, 61, worked for the city Buildings Department for more than a quarter-century, rising to become its acting head of crane inspections.

But for more than a decade, he took payments from Copaigue, N.Y.-based Nu-Way Crane Service, prosecutors said.

He would get $200 to $500 for signing off on crane inspections he did not perform, and $3,000 for providing the questions and answers for a licensing exam, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said. He once accepted a $500 bribe for letting a crane operator pass an exam without even taking it, prosecutors said.

Nu-Way official Michael Sackaris, 50, and Michael Pascalli, a 25-year-old Nu-Way employee who prosecutors say got a passing grade from Delayo for a bogus crane exam, were charged with bribery and record tampering. They have pleaded not guilty.

Delayo was arrested days after a crane collapse killed two people in Manhattan — a little more than two months after another crane crashed to the ground elsewhere in Manhattan and killed seven people.

While he wasn’t linked to those accidents, the case against Delayo was the product of the heightened attention to crane safety that followed them.

City buildings officials note that they have increased training requirements for crane operators and inspectors and taken other safety steps since the collapses.

Meanwhile, a crane rigging contractor has been charged with manslaughter in one of the collapses; a crane owner and a former mechanic face manslaughter charges in the other. Besides Delayo, another former crane inspector faces charges including tampering with public records after being accused of lying about examining one of the fallen cranes 11 days before it collapsed.

All have pleaded not guilty.

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