The former CEO of a Bronx non-profit that has received $274 in public funds to help the homeless has been arrested after he allegedly schemed to ‘enrich himself through bribes and kickbacks from contractors.’
Victor Rivera, 61, was detained just weeks after an explosive New York Times piece detailed decade-long sexual abuse allegations against the former head of the Bronx Parent Housing Network (BPHN), who was fired soon after the report was released.
The Stony Point, New York, native has been charged with one count of honest services wire fraud conspiracy, one count of honest services wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
‘Many of the over 8.4 million residents of New York City rely on government-assisted non-profits to provide food, affordable housing, and other essential services for their well-being,’ Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in the press release.
‘As alleged in today’s charges, by accepting bribes and kickbacks, Victor Rivera sought to leverage his position as the CEO of a non-profit into a very much for-profit situation for himself.
Victor Rivera, 61, was detained just weeks after an explosive New York Times piece detailed decade-long sexual abuse allegations against him. 10 women – five who lives in his facilities – have accused him of sexual harassment or assault
‘The vast majority of organizations in New York City’s non-profit networks honorably provide assistance to those in need, but when any individual selfishly exploits one of those organizations for their own personal gain, they will find themselves facing criminal charges for corruption.’
Rivera co-launched the Bronx Parent Housing Network in 2000, helping it become a leading city contractor. Since 2017 his organization has secured $274million in city funding to help run almost 70 homeless housing facilities.
According to the release, Rivera was the President and Chief Executive Officer of BPHN. The nonprofit would spend millions in public every year to funds real estate, security, cleaning, construction, and food expenses related to housing and social services provided by the organization.
The release states from at least 2013 until about 2020, Rivera allegedly engaged in a scheme to enrich himself and his relatives by ‘soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks from contractors doing work related to or for’ BPHN.
Rivera raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit gains, many of which were laundered through intermediary entities the former CEO controlled. These included a consulting company nominally owned by one of Rivera’s relatives, according to the release.
Rivera co-launched the Bronx Parent Housing Network in 2000, helping it become a leading city contractor. Since 2017 his organization has secured $274million in city funding to help run almost 70 homeless housing facilities. He has since been fired from his role
Charging documents add that Rivera used the consulting company funds ‘for his own benefit, including by writing or causing others to write official checks ‘ from the the consulting company’s bank account ‘to pay down the mortgage on his personal residence.’
Rivera has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted for all three charges, Rivera could face up to 60 years behind bar for these crimes.
The Times reports that Rivera is also under investigation by the Bronx district attorney’s office after 10 women – including homeless women who had been staying at some of the non-profit’s shelters – accused the former CEO of sexual assault and/or harassment. Two of the women accused him of forcing them to perform oral sex on him.
While the group of women reported the incident to a state agency, a city hotline, and even to police, Rivera remained at the head of the organization.
One woman working for BPHN – Danielle Dawson – said that Rivera forced her to give him oral sex in 2016 and then fired her, according to police records, interviews and other documents, the New York Times reported last month.
Dawson, who was romantically involved with Rivera until she broke it off, had initially turned down advances from the former CEO to have sex. When she refused, he reportedly told her: ‘Nobody tells Daddy no.’
From at least 2013 until about 2020, Rivera allegedly engaged in a scheme to enrich himself and his relatives by ‘soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks from contractors doing work related to or for’ BPHN
Another employee accused Rivera of groping her and whispering sexual comments in her ear in 2018. When both women went to complain to a state human rights agency, the Bronx Parent Housing Network paid them $175,000 total in settlements that prohibited them from speaking publicly about their allegations.
Five of the women who accused Rivera had been living in his homeless shelters, or had recently left, when they were approached for sex.
‘He’s got a lot of power over a lot of vulnerable girls,’ said Erica Sklar, 49.
Sklar had been living in the homeless shelter in 2012 when Rivera offered to move her into an empty apartment in a building he owned in the Bronx. The building was also where he and his wife also lived.
Sklar moved in early 2013 and immediately noticed a shift in Rivera’s tone as he began flirting with her and attempted to grab her waist or lift her skirt, she told the New York Times.
In Dec. 2016, Rivera came by to Sklar’s place to help her after her microwave began smoking. After asking to inspect a leak in Erica’s bedroom, he shoved the woman against a wall and began touching her. Sklar said that as Rivera demanded oral sex from her, he asked if she liked living there.
Rivera has maintained his innocence as it pertains to the sexual assault and harassment allegations. Two of the women have accused him of forcing them to perform oral sex on him
‘I felt like if I could just do it, I could keep my home,’ she said. ‘I never felt so dirty or so disgusted in all my life.’
While Sklar kept a shirt with Rivera’s semen on it, she never did report the incident to police.
Rivera has maintained his innocence as it pertains to the sexual assault and harassment allegations.
‘I have always treated the women I work with at B.P.H.N. with dignity and respect. These allegations are unfair, baseless and without merit,’ Rivera said in a statement.
Staff openly discussed Rivera’s sexual aggression, along with the nepotism running rampant at the company. Rivera’s wife, brother and son-in-law all were hired by the company, according to internal staff rosters and tax filings. Rivera’s wife was promoted to a senior executive position at BPHN while simultaneously working at a for-profit housing company owned by her husband, according to a deposition she gave in an unrelated lawsuit.
Rivera’s nature was so notorious at the non-profit that it even prompted one employee to resign in disgust.
‘I can no longer continue to represent or be a part of this culture that has taken over our company,’ said Bernard Rodriguez, former head of maintenance at one of the shelters, in an email announcing his 2018 departure from the non-profit. ‘I am a father of a young girl & would be devastated to know that she would be preyed upon by a predator that has leverage over her.’