College Point building inspector criminally charged with taking bribes to close complaints: DA

A building inspector from College Point was charged with taking bribes in exchange for overlooking potential violations at several Queens locations.
Photo courtesy of DOB

A College Point man who works as an inspector at the city’s Department of Buildings is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for overlooking potential violations at various Queens locations on multiple occasions since January 2023.

Zabihullah Ibrahimi, 42, of 22nd Avenue, was arraigned Thursday in Queens Criminal Court on bribery and official misconduct charges for taking cash from homeowners and then closing complaints about their property. In one case, he allegedly asked for $3,500 from a property owner and, when she said she had no cash, he directed her to go to a bank and get it while he waited at her home, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

“When city officials charged with keeping the public safe decide to shirk their responsibilities in favor of lining their own pockets, everybody loses,” Katz said.

According to the charges, in his work as a DOB inspector, Ibrahimi responded to 311 complaints, inspecting homes to verify that alleged complaints existed and, if so, issuing violations. On Jan. 10, 2023, Ibrahimi visited a home on 111th Street in South Ozone Park to conduct an inspection of the basement. He took photos of the cellar and told the homeowner that her basement was illegal, and it would cost her a lot of money to legalize it and that he could fix it for $1,500. The homeowner then showed Ibrahimi $140 saying it was all she had.

Ibrahimi took the cash and told the woman that she should reschedule the inspection and he would close the case. He then dialed his own phone number from the woman’s phone and instructed her to say she wanted another inspection. He picked up the phone while she was still standing next to him. Ibrahimi called the woman ten minutes after leaving the property saying he had closed the inspection. DOB records indicate the complaint was closed because entry could not be obtained to the property.

On Dec. 18, 2023, Ibrahimi told a property owner on 116th Street in South Jamaica that her house had a violation that would cost her $3,000, but he did not want to write a violation for her. The woman asked Ibrahimi if he wanted money and he asked for $500. She told him she only had $300 and gave it to him in exchange for not writing a violation. DOB records indicate the complaint was closed stating no violation was warranted.

On Jan. 24, 2024, Ibrahimi visited a property on 193rd Street in St. Albans and told the homeowner there were issues that needed to be fixed and to give him $3,500. The woman said she did not have any money, so he sent her to the bank to get $1,000 and he waited outside her home. When the homeowner returned, she handed over the cash.

DOB records show the complaint was closed because an inspector was unable to gain access since the property failed to keep the inspection appointment.

“When we became aware of the alleged behavior of this employee, we immediately referred the issue to our partners in law enforcement and have worked closely with them throughout their investigation,” DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said. “This employee has already been placed on leave without pay, and in the interest of public safety we have already conducted a thorough audit of his previous work here at the department and taken appropriate enforcement actions.”

Ibrahim was arraigned on three counts of bribe receiving and three counts of official misconduct.

“As charged, instead of doing his job — to identify unsafe and illegal residences — this city inspector used his position of authority to solicit bribes from homeowners,” Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn Stauber said. “Thankfully, homeowners, as well as DOB, reported this alleged misconduct to DOI, prompting our investigation, together with our partners in the Queens District Attorney’s Office, and resulting in the complaint that was filed. DOI anticipates proposing a number of policy and procedural reforms to the City Department of Buildings to reduce the risk of inspector misconduct.”

Queens Criminal Court Judge Julieta Lozano ordered Ibrahimi to return to court on June 17. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.