State officials have confirmed to THE CITY that the nonprofit managing the placement of released Rikers inmates in hotels during the pandemic relied on an unlicensed security firm at some of the hotels, including one where a resident alleges she was sexually assaulted by a caseworker.

City Hall awarded a $55 million no-bid contract to Exodus Transitional Communities to place released inmates in hotel rooms to curb the spread of COVID. But the firm that Exodus said it used for months in 2020 at three of the hotels, called Global Operations Security Inc., does not have a New York state watch guard license, the Department of State’s licensing division reports.

All firms performing security work in New York must be licensed, according to the department. To obtain a license, security firms must document that their employees have received proper training. Because the company in question does not have a license, the Department of State has referred the matter to law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution, a department spokesperson told THE CITY. 

The department acted in response to an investigation by THE CITY that revealed the sexual assault allegation and raised serious questions about who handled security at the hotels. 

When THE CITY requested the license number of the firm Exodus said handled this task at the hotels, City Hall provided the license of a security agency whose executive vice president told THE CITY their firm had nothing to do with Exodus or the hotel program.

On Monday in an email, Exodus’ president, Julio Medina, explained that after THE CITY requested a license number for the firm handling security at the Exodus hotels, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) asked Exodus for it. Medina stated that Exodus reached out to Global Operations Security.

“Global provided us with that license information and we immediately forwarded it to MOCJ. We provided documents that were strictly provided to us from Global. We had no knowledge that the company providing security services was not licensed or that it was not the company purporting itself to be,” Medina wrote.

Ballooning Business

The no-bid contract that MOCJ awarded Exodus in April 2020 jumped from $835,000 to $55 million in 16 months on de Blasio’s watch. In January his successor, Mayor Eric Adams, awarded the firm another no-bid “emergency” contract worth $40 million to continue placing released inmates in hotels in the six months through June.

On Monday Maxwell Young, Adams’ communications director, did not respond to THE CITY’s questions about the use of an unlicensed security firm at the hotels where Exodus was placing ex-inmates at the city’s expense. Nor would Young say whether the mayor intended to keep Exodus on going forward.

The Wolcott Hotel in Midtown Manhattan has been home to people recently released from Rikers. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

When the pandemic struck in spring 2020, MOCJ awarded a no-bid contract to Exodus to help inmates released from prison during the pandemic find work and reenter society. The contract greatly expanded as Exodus also began managing the placement of released Rikers and state inmates into hotels to help curb the spread of the virus.

Latoya Walker, released from Rikers in June 2020 and placed by Exodus into the Wyndham Hotel in Fresh Meadows, Queens, alleges she was sexually assaulted in her room by an Exodus employee in August 2020. The employee was later arrested but charges were later dropped by the Queens district attorney due to delays in bringing the case to trial.

Walker filed a lawsuit against Exodus and the security firm, identified by Exodus’ lawyers as Global Operations Security Inc. with an address on Long Island’s Jericho Turnpike. That firm, the state said, does not have the required license.

When THE CITY asked for the license number of the firm handling security at the Exodus hotels, City Hall provided the license held by a different firm with a similar name — Global Operations Security Services, based in Manhattan. That firm’s executives have notified City Hall they had nothing to do with providing security for Exodus at the hotels where inmates were and are being placed.

On Friday in an email to THE CITY, the Department of State noted that security must have a license to perform this service in New York and that “Criminal action for a violation relating to unlicensed activity is enforced by the Office of the Attorney General or the local district attorney” and, if proven, is “punishable as a Class B misdemeanor.”

“DOS has apprised the Queens DA and the OAG of this matter and is referring it to each office for their review,” they wrote.

On Monday spokesperson for the Queens DA Melinda Katz declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Letitia James did not respond to THE CITY’s request for comment.

In his emailed response to THE CITY Monday, Medina stated that Exodus was “not the party that selected Global as a provider, but rather we inherited this provider from the City.”

Medina claimed Globalwas hired in the first place by the Office of Emergency Management, though there’s no record of any contracts between any city agency and Global. Yet another similarly named firm, Global Security Solutions, is listed as a subcontractor of Exodus on the hotel placement contract by the city comptroller’s office. The owner of that firm also denied having anything to do with the Exodus hotel placement program.

Medina insisted that Exodus has “cooperated with the City in every manner possible to provide clarity on this situation and will continue to do so, and if the Department of State and/or Queens County District Attorney reaches out we will cooperate with them as well.”