While Working at JFK Airport, Marlene Mizzi Allegedly Took Gifts and Benefits from Joseph Jourieh and Others in Exchange for Providing Special Treatment – Including to the Qatari and Other Foreign Governments
Mizzi Charged with Multiple Counts of Receiving a Reward for Official Misconduct, Receiving Unlawful Gratuities, and Official Misconduct; Jourieh Charged with Rewarding Official Misconduct
Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced grand jury indictments charging Port Authority official Marlene Mizzi, 54, of Wantagh, with three counts of Receiving a Reward for Official Misconduct in the Second Degree, a class E felony in violation of Penal Law Section 200.25, and Joseph Jourieh, 58, of Staten Island, with two counts of Rewarding Official Misconduct in the Second Degree. Mizzi is also facing multiple misdemeanor counts of Receiving Unlawful Gratuities and Official Misconduct. Mizzi has been suspended from her job.
According to the indictments and other documents filed in Queens County, Mizzi is alleged to have accepted numerous benefits from Jourieh and other individuals for having violated her duty as a public servant as a Port Authority Official at John F. Kennedy Airport. The defendants each face a maximum sentence of up to four years if convicted on the top counts. The indictments stem from a joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the Port Authority Inspector General’s Office.
“We have zero tolerance for those who violate the public trust for personal benefit,” said Attorney General Underwood. “As we detail in the indictment, the defendant used her position at the Port Authority for personal gain, accepting gifts and benefits from individuals working for foreign governments in exchange for special treatment. We’ll continue to work with our partners in government to hold accountable those who jeopardize the integrity of our government agencies.”
Michael Nestor, Inspector General for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said, “The defendant is alleged to have violated her position of public trust and used her position for personal gain. In this case, the defendant chose to enrich herself and tarnish the reputation of the agency by allegedly accepting cash, travel, meals and other things of value from representatives of foreign governments. The Port Authority will not tolerate employee misconduct or corruption of any kind. Today’s indictment will serve notice to all Port Authority employees that the agency will not tolerate violations of the public trust or any other corrupt acts. The Port Authority Office of Inspector General and its Law Enforcement partners will aggressively identify, investigate and bring to justice those who corrupt the integrity of the agency.”
As alleged in the indictment, Mizzi has been an employee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for 35 years and, prior to her suspension earlier this year, worked as an Assistant Airport Duty Supervisor at John F. Kennedy Airport (“JFK”). Jourieh operates a company, East Coast Concierge, which works on behalf of the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the United Nations, arranging transportation and other services when government officials travel to New York.
During the annual United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, with airport security at a heightened state, Port Authority rules clearly state that foreign state aircraft must depart JFK within two hours of arrival and there is no overnight parking of foreign state aircraft. However, the Attorney General alleges that, from 2014 until she left the Port Authority in June 2018, Mizzi would unilaterally grant exceptions to these rules without proper approval, for certain foreign countries, most notably Qatar. During these years, Mizzi authorized numerous Qatari diplomatic planes to stay overnight during the United Nations General Assembly, sometimes for multiple days – allegedly in exchange for gifts and benefits from Jourieh. In 2014 and 2015, Jourieh arranged free limousine rides and meals for Mizzi, and provided her with a gift of a watch. In 2017, Mizzi received bottles of wine and other gifts from another foreign state’s representative in return for the same overnight parking privilege.
Mizzi also allegedly received other gifts, including bottles of wine, from other foreign countries for her work at JFK. On numerous occasions, representatives from foreign countries would personally deliver gifts to Mizzi on JFK property. The Port Authority Code of Ethics has a strict zero tolerance policy on the acceptance of payments, gifts, free meals, or transportation from vendors or anyone with whom the Port Authority does or is likely to do business.
The Attorney General thanks the Office of the Port Authority Inspector General for its assistance in this investigation.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.