Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Federal Agents Search Carabetta Offices In Meriden

By DAVE ALTIMARI

Federal agents searched Carabetta Construction's main offices in Meriden on Wednesday.

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Haven, acknowledged the search but would not comment on the reason for the search or what federal authorities were removing from the building. FBI agents are assisting investigators from the IRS Criminal Investigations Division.

Carabetta is a property development company that does extensive work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies renovating or developing apartments and multi-family housing all over the state. Carabetta has financed over $1 billion through state and federal government programs, according to the company website.

The company's portfolio includes 20,000 units of multifamily housing, elderly housing, building subdivisions of single family homes and nearly 6,000 units of high-rise buildings, some as high as 22 stories. Carabetta's portfolio also includes building commercial developments as well as schools and firehouses.

Carabetta was involved in a controversy with the Hartford Housing Authority and former Mayor Eddie Perez Jr. A former executive director of the housing authority questioned the relationship between members of the authority and Salvatore Carabetta, who was trying to get exclusive development rights to a broad swath of properties in Hartford, including Nelton Court in the North End.

Besides federal housing contracts, the Pratt Street firm also has attempted to do military housing work as managing partner of a company called American Eagle, which got a $1.3 billion contract to build houses on six military bases across the country.

Carabetta hired retired four-star Gen. Merrill McPeak, who was Air Force chief of staff during the Persian Gulf War, to help him get the first American Eagle contract, at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which did a series of stories on private housing at military bases in 2008.

All six of the housing projects at the military bases fell apart, prompting the Department of Justice to open an investigation. None of the bases is in Connecticut.

Carson would not comment on whether the search is related to that investigation or the Hartford Housing Authority issue.

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