A retired inspector who worked and socialized with Mayor Eric Adams when they were both members of the New York Police Department was charged on Friday with conspiring with four construction executives and a bookkeeper to funnel illegal donations to Mr. Adams’s 2021 campaign.
The 27-count indictment accuses the defendants, some of whom had sophisticated knowledge of campaign finance law, of trying to conceal the source of thousands of dollars in donations by making them in the names of colleagues and relatives.
The indictment, announced by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, says the group sought influence and perhaps city contracts, but it does not accuse Mr. Adams or his campaign of misconduct and does not suggest he was aware of the scheme.
Mr. Bragg said in a statement that the defendants had concocted “a deliberate scheme to game the system in a blatant attempt to gain power.”
In addition to the retired police inspector, Dwayne Montgomery, those charged were Shamsuddin Riza, Millicent Redick, Ronald Peek and the brothers Yahya and Shahid Mushtaq.
The indictment describes the Mushtaqs as principals in EcoSafety Consultants, a construction firm that is also charged in the indictment. Mr. Riza, the operator of a second construction firm that was separately charged, has also worked with EcoSafety, the district attorney’s office said. Ms. Redick worked for him as a bookkeeper. Mr. Peek works at another construction safety firm.
EcoSafety has been a city subcontractor since April 2021, according to records maintained by the city comptroller’s Office. The city has paid the firm $470,000 in that time.
Scott Grauman, a lawyer for Shahid Mushtaq and EcoSafety, noted that his clients had pleaded not guilty pleas at an arraignment on Friday. “We will be vigorously defending against the allegations,” he added.
Yahya Mushtaq had not been arraigned, but Mr. Grauman, who represents him as well, said he would also plead not guilty and vigorously fight the charges.
Alexei Grosshtern, a lawyer for Ms. Redick, the bookkeeper, said his client knew only one of the other defendants, Mr. Riza. Ms. Redick, Mr. Grosshtern added, was unaware of any scheme and was surprised to be arrested.
A lawyer for Mr. Riza could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. Montgomery is related by marriage to Mr. Riza and is a former colleague of Mr. Adams’s.
“Montgomery was a colleague of the mayor in the Police Department whom he knew socially and worked on criminal justice issues with,” said Evan Thies, a spokesman for the mayor’s 2021 campaign. “Dozens of former police officers and criminal justice advocates hosted events for the mayor over the course of the campaign.”
Mr. Montgomery’s lawyer, Anthony Ricco, said his client had no business with the city and had not asked Mr. Adams, a friend of 35 years, to take any action on his behalf.
“Dwayne Montgomery is a New York City hero, not a manufactured hero,” Mr. Ricco said, pointing to his client’s three decades of service with the Police Department and his commitment to the Harlem neighborhood where he grew up and where he was respected by the community.
After Mr. Montgomery retired from the department in 2009, he was the chief executive of a security company, Overwatch Services, for five years. A City Hall spokesman said Philip Banks III, Mr. Adams’s deputy mayor for public safety, bought the firm from Mr. Montgomery around 2015.
Mr. Montgomery’s biography on the archived web page of a separate security company, Public Safety Reimagined, which he co-founded last year, says he is also the director of integrity for Local 237 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents some city workers.
New York City’s complex campaign finance law sits at the heart of the conduct detailed in the court papers. To diminish the influence of big donors and to help less-connected candidates get a leg up, New York City matches the first $250 of a resident’s donation eight to one.
The defendants are accused of trying to mask large donations by funneling them through so-called straw donors. That enabled the campaign to garner more city funds, and potentially amplified the defendants’ influence with the incoming mayor.
It was unclear how much public money was spent as a result of the scheme.
On Friday, Mr. Thies thanked prosecutors for “their hard work on behalf of taxpayers.”
“The campaign always held itself to the highest standards and we would never tolerate these actions,” Mr. Thies said. “The campaign will of course work with the D.A.’s office, the Campaign Finance Board and any relevant authorities.”
The defendants held two fund-raisers for Mr. Adams, one in August 2020 and the other a year later. The second took place after Mr. Adams had won the Democratic primary, effectively ensuring his election as mayor.
For each fund-raiser, according to prosecutors, the defendants recruited straw donors and then reimbursed them.
“I’ll put the money up for you,” Mr. Riza texted one relative, according to the indictment.
The defendants seemed aware that they were engaging in risky behavior.
“You gotta be careful cause you gotta make sure you do it through workers they trust, that’s not gonna talk, because remember a guy went to jail for that,” Mr. Peek told Mr. Riza at one point, according to the indictment.
The defendants appeared hopeful that their donations would help them win contracts on a development project. In July 2021, Mr. Riza forwarded an email advertising the project to Mr. Montgomery.
“FYI! This is the one I want, Safety, Drywall, and Security one project but we all can eat!” Mr. Riza wrote, the indictment says.
It was unclear whether Mr. Adams appeared at the fund-raisers. But Mr. Montgomery told Mr. Riza that the mayor would be more likely to do so if they could promise a certain amount of money would be raised, a practice that is not uncommon among politicians.
Mr. Adams “doesn’t want to do anything if he doesn’t get 25 Gs,” Mr. Montgomery said, according to the indictment.
Mr. Adams’s campaign said Mr. Montgomery appeared to be referring to the standard amount expected of hosts for a general election fund-raiser.
In a July 2021 phone call, Mr. Riza told Mr. Peek: “I know what the campaign finance laws is. Make sure it’s $1,000 in your name and $1,000 in another person’s name because the matching funds is eight-to-one, so $2,000 is $16,000.”