I know, I know. We’re all getting so impatient for indictments and arrests and jail time for the slew of ex-government apparatchiks whom we hate hate hate.
So I read with eager anticipation what follows from today’s Daily News, because I, for one, have never heard of Eric Goldstein, an awful guy who worked in the New York City DOE, and had power and did rotten things to children’s school meals. For money.
He is so bad I’m surprised he didn’t get a job in Betsy DeVos’ federal DOE. But the company who provided the bribe as well as the chicken tenders — enhanced by dangerous foreign objects — is headquartered in Texas, so there’s that.
I provide this because the Daily News is more likely than the broadsheets to offer us the full story, complete with expletives, about what goes on in New York. (The copy process does not pick up the photo of Eric Goldstein so let me describe him as looking repulsive.)
Keep the faith.
School food scam bust
Feds cry fowl, say ex-Ed. boss bribed to serve bad tenders
Eric Goldstein, former chief of city’s Office of School Support Services, allegedly took bribes from Texas company to buy chicken tenders containing “plastic, metal and bones.” By Noah Goldberg and Michael Elsen-Rooney
The Education Department’s former food czar served “bribed chicken” at city schools, prosecutors charged Wednesday.
Eric Goldstein, 53, is accused of lining his own pockets through a secret stake in a sketchy food company that in 2016 had its products pulled from city schools after an Education Department staffer choked on a chicken tender with a bone.
Executives at the Texas-based company then allegedly paid Goldstein a $66,670 bribe and Goldstein reintroduced the tenders.
Only months later, students complained the company’s chicken came with unwanted ingredients: “plastic, metal and bones,” prosecutors said.
Also charged were Blaine Iler, Michael Turley and Brian Twomey, who are listed as executives at the Texas-based Somma Foods. The trio allegedly bribed Goldstein to keep their food products at city schools, even after they put Education Department employees at risk.
“Goldstein’s co-conspirators obtained lucrative contracts to provide food services that consisted of substandard products that were served to students, teachers and staff in public schools,” Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said.
Goldstein ran the Office of School Support Services until 2018. Prosecutors say he allegedly had a stake in a shell company the Somma execs used to bribe the Education Department bigwig.
Prosecutors wrote that the foul-mouthed crew boasted about their scam over emails.
“I’m going to buy a lot of f——-g chicken from you guys,” Goldstein told a Somma executive in 2015, according to prosecutors.
Goldstein was so powerful that schools bureaucrats nicknamed him the “Landlord of Vernon Ave.,” in reference to the Educations Department’s school support services outpost in Queens. In addition to food at the city’s roughly 1,600 schools, Goldstein had oversight of the troubled yellow school bus system and the Public Schools Athletic League.
Behind the scenes, Goldstein’s co-conspirators had a different nickname for him: “Roger Rabbit,” prosecutors said.
“This is devastating,” Goldstein told the Daily News as he left court on $150,000 bond. He said he had faith in the criminal justice system and declined to comment on the allegations.
Goldstein used “his official position and considerable influence” at the Education Department to award the crooked contract, prosecutors said. Authorities did not name the company in court documents, but numerous details in the case match details of Somma’s chicken tender scandal.
The corrupt arrangement earned Goldstein “tens of thousands of dollars” between January 2015 and December 2016, prosecutors charged.
Trouble for the company began in late 2016, when students and staff complained that “foreign objects,” including plastic, were in chicken tenders, authorities said. In October, a staffer choked on a bone in a chicken tender, prompting the Education Department to pull all of the tenders from city schools.
The execs then pressed Goldstein for weeks to use his position atop city schools’ food supply chain to reintroduce the chicken tenders, authorities say. The $66,670 payment allegedly got the food back on the menu.
Goldstein used the money to cover nearly $10,000 in divorce attorney fees and credit card debt, authorities said.
By April 2017 the chicken tenders were back in the headlines due to complaints from students and staff about nuggets with plastic, metal and bone fragments. One student reportedly choked on a tender.
Education officials terminated the contract with Somma after the incident.
Goldstein got away with the scheme in part through clever accounting, the complaint alleges. Goldstein, Twomey, Iler and Turley founded a grass-fed beef importation business in 2015 called Range Meats Supply Co. that they used to transmit the bribes, prosecutors say.
Goldstein was fired by former city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza in 2018 following persistent troubles with school bus service.
“We hold our employees to the highest standards, and this alleged conduct is wholly unacceptable. Eric Goldstein was terminated three years ago, and we are fully cooperating with the current investigation,” Education Department spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon said.
Somma Foods did not respond to a request for comment.
Several staffers who worked in the school food division under Goldstein said they tried for years to blow the whistle on problematic companies and cozy relationships between Education Department officials and food vendors.
Debra Ascher, a former supply chain manager for school foods, says in a lawsuit she was punished for complaining to superiors about the bone-filled chicken tenders and blamed when reports about the dangerous nuggets appeared in the press.
Reneto Serra, another foods staffer under Goldstein, also filed a lawsuit alleging retaliation “in connection with the reporting of hazardous food conditions that posed an immediate health and safety risk to the public.”
Patrick Russo, a former NYPD sergeant and Education Department food vendor who investigated the allegations, said he helped expose the scam.
“There’s a lot more people that need to be held accountable,” he said.