NEW YORK (AP) — A former supervisor at Kennedy Airport admitted Friday that she took bribes to allow Qatar and other countries to park their planes overnight during the United Nations General Assembly.
Marlene Mizzi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities. She was sentenced to community service.
Mizzi, 55, granted an overnight parking exception to a Qatari diplomatic flight in 2014 without proper approval. In return, prosecutors said, she received free limousine rides, meals and gifts from the Qatari mission.
“Mizzi broke the law and defiled the public’s trust when she granted favors to foreign governments in exchange for bribes, gifts and rewards,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a news release.
Mizzi’s defense attorney, Joseph Conway, said Mizzi was not involved in a “quid pro quo” but received improper “thank-you gifts” after the fact for helping Qatar.
“It’s a violation of the rules, no question about it,” Conway said. “But this was more of a rules violation than a crime. She wasn’t someone who had her hand out” looking for bribes.
State prosecutors also charged Joseph Jourieh, who is accused of giving gifts to Mizzi while working as a travel coordinator to the Qatari mission. Jourieh has pleaded not guilty.
Mizzi also admitted receiving gifts from other foreign countries during her tenure at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Prosecutors did not disclose the names of the other countries.
Foreign aircraft are not allowed to park overnight at JFK during the heightened security of the U.N. General Assembly. Port Authority rules require foreign state aircraft to depart from JFK within two hours of arriving during the annual conference.
Mizzi, who served as an assistant airport duty supervisor, was in charge of explaining these rules to foreign diplomats at a pre-assembly conference, prosecutors said.
Mizzi worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates New York-area airports, for 35 years. Conway said Mizzi will receive her pension despite her conviction.