The New York Post by ANGELA MONTEFINISE and SUSAN EDELMAN - April 19, 2009
A licensing chief for the State Liquor Authority allegedly handled applications submitted by his own nephew, and they jointly gave gift cards -- including $300 for a swanky steakhouse -- to staff at the agency's Harlem office. Now the two are the focus of an investigation into bribery at the booze-regulating agency, according to documents obtained by The Post. Deputy Commissioner for Licensing Fred Gioffre, who sources said was forced to retire in 2007, is being probed along with nephew Bruno Gioffre Jr., a White Plains lawyer who represents liquor-selling establishments. The two allegedly gave city licensing head Dana Christian a $300 gift certificate to Sparks Steak House and city licensing board member Ken Sussman a $200 certificate to P.F. Chang's. The questionable gifts were disclosed in two January letters from SLA lawyer Tom Donohue to the state Inspector General's Office, which with the Manhattan DA is investigating the SLA.
The two agencies this month raided the authority's Harlem office, which processes liquor licenses for establishments in the city, Westchester and Long Island. "Agency staff has been advised that they cannot accept anything more than an occasional cup of coffee [from] individuals who represent applicants and licensees," Donohue wrote in one of the letters. In addition to the Gioffres' presents, two $50 Macy's gift cards and three $50 Gap gift cards were given to staff members of the licensing bureau in Harlem by Marti & Associates, a firm representing liquor-license applicants, according to the letters. Staffers, including Luz Miranda, whose home was searched by investigators two weeks ago, turned the cards over to Christian, who gave them to Donohue. "The people in the Harlem office did exactly what they were supposed to do," said an SLA official. "Bribery was not rampant in that office. They're just taking the fall." SLA records show that Bruno Gioffre has represented 64 liquor-selling establishments since 2000. Nearly a quarter of those applications got speedy approvals in less than three months. The typical wait is six to eight months. Stephen Turano, a lawyer for Bruno, denied any wrongdoing, "Every single one of the applications he handled has been submitted appropriately," Turano said. Marti & Associates could not be reached for comment. firstname.lastname@example.org