FBI Subpoenas LCI Records

A federal grand jury is looking into liens that city government’s neighborhoods anti-blight agency put on people’s properties.

The agency, the Livable City Initiative (LCI), responded to a subpoena from the FBI for “any and all documents related to fees, fines, and liens levied by LCI on residential property owners and/or landlords of properties located in New Haven, Connecticut” between Jan. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013.

Click here to read the FBI subpoena, sent to LCI Executive Director Erik Johnson.

LCI put liens on more than 200 properties over that time for unpaid bills ranging from anti-blight fines to property maintenance and relocation. LCI has been taking care of abandoned rundown properties throughout the city thanks to to the neglect of banks holding debt or out-of-town slumlords or departed owners facing foreclosure. (Banks’ names rarely appear on the liens because they hold off for a year or more on taking title to abandoned properties, in order to avoid responsibility for taking care of them.)

The liens totaled $667,789.82, of which LCI reported collecting $77,178.35. The agency often waits until a blighted property is sold to collect its back debts.

Click here to view the spreadsheet LCI turned over to the FBI listing all the liens.

Mayor John DeStefano said Sunday that given that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had launched an investigation into the matter, he didn’t see the need to have New Haven’s police launch a “parallel investigation” into the allegation.

“It seems limited to an allegation of the behavior of a field officer” and did not involve any supervisors, DeStefano said.

“The FBI has not spoken to me about any specific allegations that have taken place among any members of my staff,” Erik Johnson said.

(Johnson’s appearance before a grand jury earlier this year had to do with the Angelo Reyes arson investigation, not with this matter.)

The DeStefano administration made the latest matter about the FBI subpoena public a week and a half ago when it posted on the city website a detailed transition report prepared for the incoming Harp administration. The LCI portion of the report included this paragraph: “Current the FBI has an open investigation on some of LCI past activities. The FBI has requested copies of liens that have been issued by the Department in 2012 and 2013. No other information has been requested. Copy of the subpoena is available upon request or should be addressed as part of the Office of Corporation Council transition memorandum.”

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posted by: Bill Saunders on November 17, 2013  5:59pm

Sounds like Harp’s proposal to eliminate LCI came with some insider information…..

posted by: robn on November 18, 2013  7:46am

That’s an interesting subpoena. It asks for “any and all documents related to fees, fines and liens” meaning basically everything that the LCI has ever produced because that’s all they do.
What’s not clear from the article is what they’re investigating with such a wide net. I’m no lawyer but doesn’t a subpoena require a specific goal or else it’s considered a fishing expedition?

posted by: westville man on November 18, 2013  12:29pm

My guess on this is that they are looking for a pattern of fines, inspections, etc that show some type of bias or misuse of authority.  Under King John,  that wouldn’t be shocking.
Someone complained…and had some info to back it up.

posted by: robn on November 19, 2013  10:22am

The city recently passed a law requiring certain multitenant houses to pay the city for inspection. This means that the LCIs paper trail includes correspondence with every multi-unit dwelling in the city. The FBI is going to get more than they bargained for.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 19, 2013  9:56pm

Discovery is always a bit of a “fishing expedition”. A subpoena to turn up documents is a way to add to the information and is fair game.

posted by: FacChec on November 21, 2013  2:25pm

To the editor:

The subpoena from the FBI calls for “any and all documents related to fees, fines, and liens levied by LCI on residential property owners and/or landlords of properties located in New Haven, Connecticut” between Jan. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013.

Page two of the spread sheet indicates the amount of liens collected between Jan.1, 2012 to July 31, 2013 to be $158,772.60 and not $77,178.35 as reported in this story.


Although the subpoena is related to fines and payments,and not behavior, the Mayor turns the story of the subpoena into involving a “field workers” alleged behavior.