Ex-building inspector pleads guilty to official misconduct for accepting bribes from southeast Queens homeowners: DA

A former inspector for the Department of Buildings pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Southeast Queens homeowners to close cases without issuing violations.
Photo courtesy of DOB

A College Point man pleaded guilty on Monday to taking bribes while working as an inspector for the city Department of Buildings (DOB) in exchange for not issuing violations from January 2023 through January 2024.

The city’s Department of Investigations conducted a probe after receiving allegations about Zabihullah Ibrahimi from homeowners and the DOB. The office of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz prosecuted the case.

“City employees should never scam hardworking homeowners,” Katz said. “Instead of performing his job with integrity, this former Department of Buildings inspector was soliciting bribes.”

Ibrahimi, 42, was arrested in April and charged with three counts each of bribe receiving in the third degree and official misconduct in connection with three separate incidents where he asked Southeast Queens homeowners to provide him cash in exchange for closing out their inspections without issuing any violations.

“This defendant betrayed the trust placed in him as a City Buildings Inspector to accurately identify Building Code violations and impose appropriate penalties when he abused his position of authority to seek payoffs from the homeowners,” DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Stauber said. “His conviction shows that we will not tolerate this kind of corruption.”

Ibrahimi was a member of the DOB’s Quality of Life Unit, which conducts inspections to determine whether private residences have been legally converted to multi-family dwellings.

According to the criminal complaint, in each incident, Ibrahimi told the homeowners in South Jamaica, St. Albans and South Ozone Park that he found violations at their homes, but closed their cases in DOB’s database without issuing any violations in exchange for cash payments from the homeowners. In two of those cases, Ibrahimi falsely indicated that he could not access the property to avoid recording a violation at the property.

Under DOB protocols, if an inspector is unable to gain access to a property to conduct an inspection, the inspector must post a notice on the property informing the property owner to contact DOB to schedule an inspection.

“It is imperative that DOB continues to uphold the highest standards of integrity, both in the construction industry and within our own ranks,” DOB Commissioner James Oddo said. “When we became aware of this former employee’s actions, we immediately referred the issues to our partners in law enforcement and have worked closely with them throughout their investigation.”

Ibrahimi resigned in May following his arrest. At the time of his resignation, he was receiving an annual salary of $61,800.

Oddo added that following Ibrahimi’s departure a thorough audit was conducted on his previous work at DOB in the interest of public safety. Ibrahimi pleaded guilty to one count of Official Misconduct, which is a class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to a conditional discharge and ordered to pay $1,440 in restitution, the amount of cash he took from the homeowners.

“With today’s plea, this defendant will be held responsible for his conduct and will have to repay the homeowners he took advantage of,” Katz said.

DOI’s probe identified corruption vulnerabilities in the inspection process and recommended a number of policy and procedural reforms to strengthen the controls around future inspections at DOB.

“DOI has issued — and DOB is in the process of implementing — a series of recommendations intended to close corruption vulnerabilities that DOI identified with respect to the inspection process,” Stauber said. “I thank DOB and the Queens District Attorney for their partnership in this matter and their commitment to maintaining the integrity of building inspections.”