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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Kosta Diamantis arrested, faces 22 federal counts; 3 others charged

    Former Connecticut deputy budget director Kosta Diamantis, left, and his lawyer, Vincent Provenzano, walk out of federal court, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Hartford, Conn., after pleading not guilty to 22 criminal criminal counts, including extortion and bribery in connection with allegedly demanding and receiving payments and benefits from construction contractors. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant via AP)

    Konstantinos “Kosta” Diamantis, a former state lawmaker and deputy budget director, was arrested by federal officials on Thursday and charged with extorting contractors on school construction projects and accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from those companies.

    In a 35-page indictment, Diamantis was charged with 22 separate counts, including extortion, bribery, conspiracy and 13 charges for allegedly lying to federal investigators.

    Citing emails and other messages, federal prosecutors alleged Diamantis used his position as the head of the state’s Office of School Construction Grants and Review to strong-arm contractors into paying him a cut of the school construction contracts he helped them to win.

    “This indictment contains allegations of a civil servant who committed multiple felonies, including extorting contractors, demanding and receiving bribes, and repeatedly lying to federal agents investigating his conduct,” Vanessa Roberts Avery, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said. “This kind of criminal behavior can never be tolerated, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our investigative partners will work to uncover it, no matter how long it takes.”

    “The depth of deception, collusion and abuse of power by the defendants in this case, as alleged, is glaring,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Fuller. “The willingness to manipulate contracts and blatantly steal by abusing a position of public trust is intolerable.”

    Diamantis’ arrest, first reported by The Connecticut Mirror, makes him the highest-ranked Connecticut official to face federal charges since Gov. John G. Rowland.

    The charges are the result of a years-long investigation into Diamantis, who ran Connecticut’s school construction program and oversaw other projects for Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration until he was fired from one state position and resigned from another in October 2021.

    Diamantis, 67, was arraigned in Hartford federal court on Thursday afternoon, shackled at the hands and feet. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $500,000 bail.

    As he was escorted out of federal court, his attorney, Vincent Provenzano, said it was too early to comment on the charges because he had not had a chance to review the recently unsealed indictment.

    Julia Bergman, a spokesperson for Lamont, said the governor “appreciates the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal agencies involved in this case. The governor has been clear that he has zero tolerance for malfeasance and corruption in government.”

    “The State of Connecticut and its citizens are the victims where there is public corruption, and the governor will continue to support the full scope of resources and investigative tools available to federal authorities in rooting out corruption,” Bergman added.

    Federal prosecutors have already secured several guilty pleas from some of the construction contractors that allegedly paid Diamantis for steering work to their companies.

    One of those contractors is Antonietta Roy, the owner of Construction Advocacy Professionals, who was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.

    The other two were Salvatore “Sal” Monarca and John Duffy, the president and vice president of Acranom Masonry, who were both charged with conspiracy to commit extortion.

    All three pleaded guilty to the charges filed against them earlier this week, according to federal court records, but the cases were not unsealed until after Diamantis was arrested at his home in Farmington on Thursday morning.

    ‘An insult to my character’

    A large portion of the federal indictment against Diamantis is focused on his relationship with Acranom, a Middlefield-based company that won school construction contracts in Hartford and Tolland.

    Federal prosecutors alleged Diamantis helped that masonry company to net those multimillion-dollar contracts with the understanding that Monarca and Duffy would kick a portion of that money back to him.

    The indictment repeatedly cites previously undisclosed conversations between Diamantis and the two men.

    Those records, according to prosecutors, show that Diamantis worked behind the scenes to benefit the company and attempted to use the relationship to profit from his position overseeing the state’s school construction office.

    The first school project cited in the indictment was the Weaver High School project in Hartford, where Diamantis helped Acranom to settle a billing dispute with the city and to secure another contract in the late stages of that $133 million project.

    In one instance in January 2019, Diamantis allegedly informed Duffy and Monarca that he expected to receive up to 5% of the contract price that he helped them to negotiate.

    “Just so you both [know], I am very good at what I do, and always do what I say. Johnny knows,” Diamantis wrote. “And I always usually work at 5 percent of total. Just FYI.”

    Prosecutors also cited similar messages that Diamantis exchanged with the two men in regards to the Birch Grove Elementary projects in Tolland, which was built on an emergency basis because the existing school’s foundation was crumbling.

    In that case, Diamantis allegedly helped Acranom to secure a $2.8 million contract for masonry work on that school. According to the indictment, he immediately began pestering Monarca and Duffy for $62,500 that he was asking for in return.

    Duffy pushed back and tried to explain to Diamantis that the company had yet to receive any money for the project, but Diamantis repeatedly insisted that he be paid before the work on the school was finished, according to the indictment.

    “I have negative in my account, 30 in my pocket. Tell him to come prepared tomorrow. We talk and check. Thanks my brother,” Diamantis wrote to Duffy. The indictment states that Diamantis’ checking account balance at the time was -$276.68.

    Duffy, who is Diamantis’ former brother-in-law, repeatedly referred to Diamantis as “Uncle” in emails and text messages.

    When Diamantis’ efforts to be paid quickly didn’t work, Diamantis threatened to have Acranom removed as a subcontractor on the project, according to the indictment.

    “I feel like a beggar for what he should have thankfully gave. Especially when we built it in. It’s like he is pissing on me and making me crawl,” Diamantis wrote. “So here is what I will do. I will wait until Monday for him to give me 40. If not, I think [contractor-2] needs a new mason for Tolland. Then he will see how real the job was. I’m not a beggar, Johnny.”

    Federal prosecutors did not specify which company is referred to as “contractor-2” in the indictment, but Richard Brown, who is representing D’Amato Construction, acknowledged that “contractor-2” was referring to his client.

    D’Amato Construction won contracts for several school construction projects while Diamantis ran the office.

    “At this point, any interaction my client had with the indicted individual was totally above-board, and they have fully cooperated with the federal investigation and deny any wrongdoing,” Brown told the CT Mirror.

    Diamantis’ daughter

    Acranom was not the only company to allegedly pay Diamantis in order secure business on school construction projects.

    The indictment also highlights a similar relationship between Diamantis and Construction Advocacy Professionals, which is owned by Roy.

    That company served as a project manager on several projects, including the Birch Grove school, Bulkeley High School in Hartford and New Britain High School.

    According to the indictment, Diamantis pressured Roy to hire his daughter, Anastasia, to work with the company. She was seeking part-time work at $20 per hour, the indictment states.

    Federal prosecutors allege Roy eventually hired Anastasia as an independent contractor at $45 per hour.

    The company then received a $70,000 consulting agreement for the Birch Grove project in Tolland.

    Following that decision, Diamantis allegedly solicited another “donation” from Construction Advocacy Professionals.

    The indictment claims that Roy responded to that request by writing a personal check to Diamantis for $1,000 and a $500 “bonus” check for his daughter.

    A month later, Construction Advocacy Professionals got a second contract on the Birch Grove project worth $460,000.

    Around the same time, the indictment alleges that Diamantis also assisted Roy in obtaining a $2.29 million contract to oversee the Bulkeley High School project.

    The bid submitted by Construction Advocacy Professionals in Hartford was the third-lowest, but Diamantis allegedly convinced city officials to hire the company anyway.

    Diamantis allegedly helped Roy to revise her bid, which the other companies did not have the opportunity to do. Even so, two other companies still offered to perform the work for less money.

    Less than a month after getting that contract, Roy offered Diamantis’ daughter a new position in her company as an assistant project manager.

    Construction Advocacy Professionals also landed a third contract in New Britain, where the high school was being renovated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Roy’s company received $62,620 for that project, and in the aftermath, Roy allegedly provided Diamantis and his daughter with cash and several personal checks. Those payments totaled $4,500, according to federal prosecutors.

    The U.S. Attorney’s office did not indicate Thursday whether any other indictments were expected, but it said Monarca and Roy have agreed to cooperate with the government.

    daltimari@ctmirror.org

    abrown@ctmirror.org

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