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JFK exec accepted more than $1.3 million in bribes, Schneiderman says

Edward J. Paquette, formerly of the Terminal One Group Association, pleads guilty and must pay a $2 million settlement.

A passenger walks through the main terminal area

A passenger walks through the main terminal area at JFK Airport. Photo Credit: Rhonda Vanover

A Kennedy Airport executive who prosecutors said accepted more than $1.3 million in bribes in exchange for steering lucrative contracts and other perks to his clients — pleaded guilty Thursday to charges filed in a sweeping investigation into corruption at the airport.

Edward J. Paquette, former executive director of the Terminal One Group Association, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny and one count of first-degree commercial bribe receiving, both felonies, in Queens Supreme Court, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement.

Paquette, who prosecutors said launched a number of schemes over several years starting in 2011, must pay $2 million in the settlement of the case.

He served as executive director of TOGA from 2000 to 2016.

Prosecutors said Paquette used his position to dole out opportunities to catering, transportation and aircraft servicing firms based at the airport. TOGA is a partnership consisting of Air France, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Lufthansa. It leases Terminal One at Kennedy Airport from the Port Authority.

Paquette’s attorney, Jeffrey Greco of Manhattan, declined to comment Thursday.

In one example, prosecutors said, Paquette had recommended that TOGA switch ground handling companies, solicited bids for a contract and awarded the contract to a firm. Investigators found that firm then secretly funneled up to $640,000 between 2015 and 2017 to a company that Paquette had established for the sole purpose of receiving bribes.

Other examples, prosecutors said in the settlement, include: accepting monthly cash payments totaling $100,000 per year from a food vendor group in exchange for favorable treatment; using his employer’s funds for catering services that were never performed and receiving cash payments from that vendor; accepting up to $18,000 per year in cash payments from a transportation company in exchange for information about opportunities at the airport for new business.

The conviction and plea, which require Paquette to pay $2 million to settle civil claims against him, form the second settlement in Operation Greased Runway, an investigation into procurement and contracting practices at Kennedy Airport.

The first, announced on Oct. 19, consisted of a plea and civil settlement involving Yankee Clipper Food Services I and Express Hospitality Group. That settlement required litigants, primarily food vendors who operate at the airport, to surrender up to $13 million in back taxes and other penalties.

With Paquette’s settlement, prosecutors said, the investigation has garnered $15 million in penalties and restitution.

“Accepting bribes is a crime that undermines legitimate businesses and prevents access to equal opportunity for hardworking New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said.

Michael J. Nestor, inspector general for the Port Authority, said Paquette siphoned millions of dollars “at the expense of his employer and the other airline carriers they served.”

“Individuals who willingly participate in a pay-to-play system subvert the process for those who try to compete fairly and ultimately undermine the public’s trust in government,” he added.

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