Photo Courtesy of JFK Airport
According to the indictment, JFK Port Authority official Mizzi accepted gifts and benefits in exchange for providing special treatment to foreign governments.
By Forum Staff
A Port Authority official at John F. Kennedy International Airport has been indicted for allegedly accepting gifts and benefits in exchange for providing special treatment to foreign governments, State Attorney General Barbara Underwood recently announced.
Marlene Mizzi, 54, of Wantagh, was charged with three counts of second-degree receiving a reward for official misconduct, and multiple misdemeanor counts of receiving unlawful gratuities and official misconduct. She has been suspended from her job.
Joseph Jourieh, 58, of Staten Island, was also indicted for his alleged role in supplying said gifts and benefits to Mizzi.
According to charging documents, 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 JFK. Jourieh operates 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 declare that foreign state aircraft must depart JFK within two hours of arrival and there is no overnight parking of foreign state aircraft. However, from 2014 until she left the Port Authority in June 2018, Mizzi allegedly would unilaterally grant exceptions to these rules without proper approval, for certain foreign countries, most notably Qatar. During these years, Mizzi allegedly 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, Underwood noted.
“The defendant is alleged to have violated her position of public trust and used her position for personal gain. In this case, [Mizzi] 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,” said Port Authority Inspector General Michael Nestor. “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 indictments stem from a joint investigation conducted by the AG’s Office and the Port Authority Inspector General’s Office. If convicted on the top counts, Mizzi and Jourieh each face a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison.