MORRISANIA, the Bronx — The Bronx District Attorney’s office is now looking into sex assault and other criminal charges against a man who, for nearly two decades, built a reputation for helping to house homeless families.
Victor Rivera has now been ousted as the president and CEO of the organization he founded, the Bronx Parents Housing Network, but some other advocates for the homeless have said that his case is a small part of a much larger, systemic problem.
On the website of his organization, which is also called BPHN, Rivera, 60, had a wide variety of videos and photos that show him leading various charity efforts. As of Monday afternoon, however, all of it was gone.
It was all replaced by just one thing: a statement by the BPHN Board of Directors that said, in part, that it acknowledged “shocking claims regarding… Rivera,” and that, “effective immediately, Mr. Rivera’s employment with the BPHN has been terminated.”
At least 10 women have now said that Rivera either sexually assaulted them, or gave them unwanted sexual attention. Their claims emerged in an investigation this past weekend by the New York Times.
On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio had tweeted that “The City has directed BPHN to hire an independent investigator to fully examine the multiple sexual misconduct allegations.”
However, some other advocates for housing and homeless issues said that having an independent investigator hired by the organization is not the best route to take.
Paulette Soltani is the political director of the community organizing group VOCAL-NY.
“People close to Victor had heard these accusations about him,” Soltani said in an interview. “So it’s very hard to imagine that within the organization, that any justice will come.”
The mayor also tweeted that “the City is hiring an outside auditing firm to review non-profit shelter providers to ensure true compliance.”
That move was apparently the result of indications of fraud on the part of Rivera, and possibly his organization and others, unearthed in the New York Times investigation.
It found financial records that showed that back in 2012, BPHN had $1.1 million in revenue, and Rivera had a $67,000 salary.
Just seven years later, according to the Times investigation, BPHN had $81 million in revenue, and Rivera was pulling a salary of more than $306,000. He also owned two homes, and his organization was leasing a new Mercedes for him, with vanity plates.
There’s a need for a further investigation, Soltani said, but added that Rivera’s situation is a small part of a much bigger problem.
“The systemic issues that are boiling up in New York City are really the cause of people being able to take advantage of vulnerable people,” Soltani said. “So if we don’t get at the fact that homelessness, and overdose, and all of these desperate situations are occurring and widespread across our city, we won’t be able to stop people from taking advantage of them.”
Also, late on Monday afternoon, the office of Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark confirmed that it’s “investigating the allegations” raised in the New York Times story.
PIX11 News was not able to reach Rivera for comment.