Tag Archive: corruption

Mar 26 2014

FBI Raids Queens Assemblyman’s Home & Office

scarborough

Otisville is nice this time of year.

He’s ‘stunned’.

A relatively low-key state Assemblyman, Bill Scarborough, was visited by the G-Men this morning in an ongoing federal corruption sting.

[From The Queens Courier] The home and office of southeast Queens Assemblyman Bill Scarborough were raided by the FBI Wednesday morning, according to published reports.

Scarborough’s Albany office and Queens home were searched as part of an investigation into his travel reimbursements, the New York Post reported.
His district office and an Albany hotel room were also searched, according to the Daily News.

Scarborough, who served in the legislature for more than 20 years, told reporters that officials from the FBI and the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman seized his cell phone, calendars and “just about everything,” another report said.

“I’m innocent, but I understand the reality,” Scarborough said to a group of reporters, according to Capital New York. “I don’t know what’s going to go on. I am going to talk to a lawyer. This is just stunning to me.”

For full article: http://queenscourier.com/2014/fbi-raids-assemblyman-scarboroughs-home-office-reports/

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/fbi-raids-queens-assemblymans-home-office/

Mar 26 2014

Meet The Most Corrupt Congressman, possibly ever

Congressman Meeks could be replaced. Insiders say he was on his way out the door anyway.

WIll he retain the title in 2014?

In 2013, Rep. Gregory Meeks, the crooked legislator from South Queens, was named as “one of the most corrupt members of Congress” for the second year in a row, but now curious minds are beginning to wonder will he retain the title this year?

The nine-term member of Congress from NY’s 5th Congressional District was slammed by a report issued by CREW, The Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit organization ”dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”

The damning indictment is divided into three annotated cases including:

 

  1. accepting improper gifts and loans
  2. his involvement with charities under federal investigation
  3. his actions on behalf of convicted banker and campaign donor R. Allen Stanford.

“Although he has competition, Rep. Meeks may find himself the next member of Congress to be indicted,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.

Through extensive research, litigation, policy advocacy, and media outreach, CREW married in-depth investigation with hard-charging legal action, to employ the law as a tool to force officials to act ethically and lawfully and to bring unethical conduct to the public’s attention, according to their website.

The report can be viewed in full below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 5.34.52 AM

 

REPRESENTATIVE GREGORY MEEKS

Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is a nine-term member of Congress, representing New York’s 5th congressional district. His ethics issues stem from: (1) accepting improper gifts and loans; (2) his involvement with charities under federal investigation; and (3) his actions on behalf of convicted banker and campaign donor R. Allen Stanford. He was included in CREW’s 2011 and 2012 reports on congressional corruption for related matters.1

Improper Gifts and Loans

In 2006, Rep. Meeks paid $830,000 for a two-story house in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, New York.2 In January 2007, only a few months after the purchase, the city listed the market value of the house as $1,239,000.3 The home was designed by Robert Gaskin, a campaign contributor to the congressman who has also worked on projects for which Rep. Meeks has obtained federal funds.4 It was built on land owned by another Meeks contributor, real estate developer Richard Dennis.5 Both Mr. Dennis and Rep. Meeks claimed Rep. Meeks had not received a sweetheart deal on the house, but an independent appraiser hired by the New York Times found the value of the house to be more than $1 million at the time Rep. Meeks bought it.6 At $830,000, anyway you slice it, it was substantially below market,” the appraiser said.7 He appears to have gotten a very, very good deal.”8

In addition, on June 18, 2010, Rep. Meeks admitted that over three years he had obtained two loans totaling $55,000 but had failed to report them on his personal financial disclosure forms.9 Rep. Meeks said he obtained a $40,000 loan in 2007, which he had since repaid, and

1 For more information, see CREW’s Most Corrupt 2011, available at http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt/entry/most-corrupt-report-2011, and CREW’s Most Corrupt 2012, available at http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt/entry/most-corrupt-members-of-congress-report-2012. 2 Complaint filed with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by the National Legal and Policy Center, March 19, 2010 (National Legal and Policy Center Complaint); Eric Lipton and Raymond Hernandez, Congressman Cries Poor, But Lifestyle May Disagree, New York Times, March 20, 2010. The National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, also raised questions about the sale of Rep. Meeks’ former home in Far Rockaway, Queens. The NLPC alleges that Rep. Meeks sold that home at an inflated price to unqualified buyers represented by Alexander Kaplan, a Brooklyn real estate attorney who was subsequently convicted of a multi- million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. For more information, see http://nlpc.org/stories/2012/01/10/nlpc-asks-feds- investigate-meeks-house-sale. 3 National Legal and Policy Center Complaint. 4 Id. 5 Id. 6 Lipton and Hernandez, New York Times, Mar. 20, 2010. 7 Id. 8 Id. 9 Benjamin Lesser and Greg B. Smith, Congressman Meeks Failed to Disclose Hidden Loans; Queens Pol Borrowed More than $50 G, New York Daily News, June 20, 2010.

that he received a $15,000 loan in 2008, which he was still repaying.10 Notably, Rep. Meeks failed to include information about any loans on his 2007 and 2008 personal financial disclosure reports, but called the lapses an “oversight.”11

According to his 2009 personal financial disclosures, in 2008 Rep. Meeks took a loan for $15,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union.12 On the same form, Rep. Meeks also revealed a debt of $50,000 to $100,000 owed to Queens businessman Edul Ahmad, evidently the first disclosure of the 2007 loan and accrued interest.13 Rep. Meeks admitted he had not sought permission from the House Ethics Committee (then known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) before accepting the loan from Mr. Ahmad.14

Apparently, Rep. Meeks received a check for $40,000 from Mr. Ahmad in January 2007 to help with costs associated with his new $830,000 home.15 Rep. Meeks received the money without any discussion of interest rates, due dates, or collateral requirements for the loan.16 Further, Rep. Meeks made no payments on the loan until June 2010, after the FBI questioned Mr. Ahmad about the money.17 At that point, Rep. Meeks apparently took out a home equity loan for $59,650.18 He then sent Mr. Ahmad a check for $59,684, representing the $40,000 plus an annual interest rate of 12.5 percent.19 In a July 2010 statement regarding the omission of the loans from his personal financial disclosure forms, Rep. Meeks said that when he borrowed the money from Mr. Ahmad in 2007, “interest rates were as high as they have been in nearly a decade. Today, interest rates are as low as they have been since the 1950s. When I saw this, there was no question that it made financial sense to pay back the loan from Ed Ahmad and replace it with a lower interest rate loan secured by my home, which is exactly what I did during the same week that I filed my current and amended financial disclosure statement.”20

Rep. Meeks admitted he had no documents to back up the loan from Mr. Ahmad, but said it was due within 10 years.21 He later told the House Ethics Committee the loan interest rate and

10 Id. 11 Greg B. Smith, Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks: $55G in Undisclosed Loans An ‘Oversight’, New York Daily News, June 21, 2010. 12 Rep. Gregory Meeks, Calendar Year 2009 Financial Disclosure Statement, filed June 16, 2010; Rep. Gregory Meeks, Multi-Year Personal Financial Disclosure Amendment, filed November 17, 2010. 13 Id.; Rep. Gregory Meeks, Calendar Year 2009 Financial Disclosure Statement, filed June 16, 2010; Greg B. Smith, FBI Looks Into Secret $40,000 Personal Loan to Queens Pol Gregory Meeks, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010. 14 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010. 15 Id. 16 Id. 17 Id.; In July 2011, the FBI arrested Mr. Ahmad on apparently unrelated mortgage fraud charges and, in October 2012, Mr. Ahmad pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. His sentencing has not yet been scheduled. See United States v. Edul Ahmad, 1:11-mj-00755-jo (E.D.N.Y. 2011). 18 Complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, July 13, 2010, Exhibit F, Short Form Subordinated Third Mortgage, dated June 18, 2010, filed with the Office of the City Register of the City of New York, June 22, 2010. 19 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010; Office of Congressional Ethics, 112th Congress, Report and Findings Related to Rep. Gregory Meeks, Review No. 11-1048, April 29, 2011 (OCE Report and Findings). 20 OCE Report and Findings, Exhibit 11, Press Release from Representative Gregory Meeks, July 9, 2010. 21 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010.

repayment schedule was put in writing, but he misplaced the documents.22 Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer, however, told the House Ethics Committee that the loan had no fixed interest rate, and Rep. Meeks did not sign any loan documents.23 Rep. Meeks described the loan as “for my family obligations, etc. I was in a new house. It’s taking care of things for my family needs in the house [sic].”24 Rep. Meeks continued, “You need to make sure the house is furnished. You need things.”25

The $59,650 home equity loan Rep. Meeks took out to repay the $40,000 was borrowed from Four Investments, an investment firm owned by Dennis Mehiel, another New York businessman and a longtime Democratic donor.26 Although Mr. Mehiel has not commented on the loan, in February 2010 he said, “I’m a longtime personal friend or acquaintance of virtually every Democratic member of Congress from New York.”27 Mr. Mehiel and his wife, Karen Mehiel, donated a combined $9,600 to Rep. Meeks during the 2010 election cycle, the maximum allowable.28

During an interview with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Mr. Mehiel said Rep. Meeks had met with him in June 2010 and asked him for a loan in order to pay back an existing $40,000 loan from another individual, whom Rep. Meeks did not identify.29 Rep. Meeks also requested money to pay interest on the earlier loan.30 Mr. Mehiel spoke with Rep. Meeks’ lawyers regarding loan terms, and told OCE Rep. Meeks’ lawyers wanted to complete the loan immediately because a House financial disclosure form was due.31 In addition, Mr. Mehiel reported Rep. Meeks’ lawyers “felt compelled to pay the [original lender] a high interest rate so the [sic] Rep. Meeks would not be seen as getting a benefit.”32 Four Investments had never made any similar loans previously and Mr. Mehiel said the company would not make any in the future, but he made an exception for Rep. Meeks, whom he described as a friend.33 Mr. Mehiel said he did not want to appear to be offering Rep. Meeks a special deal, so he required Rep. Meeks to provide collateral and set a 7.3 percent interest rate payable quarterly after seeing the rate listed in the newspaper as a standard rate for such loans.34

22 House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Report: In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Gregory Meeks, December 20, 2012, at 4. 23 Id. at 5. 24 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010.

25 Id. 26 Benjamin Lesser and Robert Gearty, Queens Pol Gregory Meeks Taps Democratic Fundraiser to Help Pay Back $40,000 Owed to Businessman, New York Daily News, July 9, 2010. 27 Id.; Raymond Hernandez, Enviable Access Given Top 10 Donors to New York Lawmakers, New York Times, February 11, 2010. 28 Lesser and Gearty, New York Daily News, July 9, 2010; Center for Responsive Politics, Donor Lookup, Mehiel, 2009-2010. 29 OCE Report and Findings, Exhibit 3, Memorandum of Interview, Managing Member, 4M Investments, LLC, March 14, 2011. The OCE report did not identify Mr. Mehiel by name, instead referring to the “Chairman of U.S. Corrugated, Inc. and Managing Member of 4M Investments, LLC.” Mr. Mehiel, however, is the owner of 4M Investments, and is also the chairman of U.S. Corrugated, Inc. See http://www.uscorr.com/about-us/leadership- team/dennis-mehiel/. 30 OCE Report and Findings, at 8. 31 Id., Exhibit 3. 32 Id. 33 Id. 34 OCE Report and Findings, at 8.

Discounted Office Rent

From 2002 until 2004, Rep. Meeks maintained a district office in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens.35 His office was in a building owned by Albert Baldeo, a Queens immigration lawyer.36 In January 2013, Mr. Baldeo told the New York Post he had offered the congressman discounted rent during this period because he wanted Rep. Meeks to establish an office in Richmond Hill.37

House disbursement records show Rep. Meeks paid $1,450 per month in rent for the Richmond Hill office from January 1, 2002 until September 2003, when the rent rose to $2,220 per month.38 In addition, Rep. Meeks’ office reported a one-time $6,000 rent payment to Mr. Baldeo on August 31, 2003.39 Mr. Baldeo later said Rep. Meeks had increased the size of his office, requiring him to charge additional rent, and the $6,000 was a retroactive payment of the difference.40

Federal Probe into Dealings with Nonprofit Groups

Rep. Meeks and some of his closest political allies in New York, including Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith and former Rep. Floyd Flake (D-NY), his predecessor in Congress, are the subject of a federal probe into their dealings with several nonprofit groups.41 According to press reports, investigators are looking into whether Rep. Meeks and the others used the groups to “benefit themselves, their families, and their friends.”42 In April 2013, Sen. Smith was charged with wire fraud and bribery for attempting to bribe state Republican party officials in exchange for a spot on the party’s mayoral ballot.43 Sen. Smith pled not guilty.44

35 Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Pol’s ‘Crooked’ Pals, New York Post, January 20, 2013. 36 Id. In October 2012, Mr. Baldeo was arrested in connection with a straw donor scheme tied to his unsuccessful 2010 bid for New York City Council. The case is pending. See United States v. Albert Baldeo, 1:13-cr-00125-PAC (S.D.N.Y. 2012). 37 Vincent and Klein, New York Post, Jan. 20, 2013. 38 Committee on House Administration, 107th Congress, Statement of Disbursements of the House from January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2002, Document No. 107-201, Vol. 2, at 1822-23, April 18, 2002; Committee on House Administration, 108th Congress, Statement of Disbursements of the House from July 1, 2003 to September 30, 2003, Document No. 108-132, Vol. 2, at 1729-30, October 1, 2003. 39 Id. at 1730. 40 Vincent and Klein, New York Post, Jan. 20, 2013. 41 Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Feds’ Probe of Meeks Taking Sidetrack to Jamaica Biz Group, New York Post, April 18, 2010; Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Hide and Meeks – Shady Charities, Odd Financial Disclosures, Love of Junkets Dog Queens Congressman, New York Post, March 21, 2010; Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Pols Pushed $$ Into Their Do-Nothing Qns. Charity, New York Post, February 2, 2010; http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/malcolm-smith; http://www.legistorm.com/person/bio/127679 /Floyd_Harold_Flake.html 42 Kenneth Lovett, Barbara Ross, and Greg B. Smith, Federal Grand Jury Probes Real Estate and Nonprofit Deals for Malcolm Smith, Other Queens Pols, New York Daily News, April 2, 2010. 43 United States v. Smith et al., 7:13-cr-00297-KMK (S.D.N.Y. 2013), Michael Wilson and William K. Rashbaum, Lawmakers in New York Tied to Bribery Plot in Mayor Race, New York Times, April 2, 2013; Colin Moynihan, Lawmakers Plead Not Guilty to Charges in Bribery Scheme, New York Times, April 23, 2013. 44 Id.

Hurricane Katrina Charity

In 2001, Rep. Meeks and state Sen. Smith co-founded a New York nonprofit called New Direction Local Development Corp.45 From 2002 to 2008, New Direction’s address was the office of Joan Flowers, a former campaign treasurer for both Rep. Meeks and Sen. Smith. 46 Ms. Flowers also worked as counsel to Sen. Smith, but was asked to resign in March 2010, as reports of the federal probe surfaced.47 Sen. Smith helped direct state funding to the group, and Rep. Meeks helped it secure other contributions, including a $250,000 contribution from International Airport Centers, the developer of a cargo center near JFK Airport.48 New Direction displayed a picture of Rep. Meeks on its website.49

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Direction began collecting money for New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families, a special fund for Hurricane Katrina victims.50 The New Direction website said it planned to raise $270,000 for hurricane evacuees, and directed donations to the offices of Rep. Meeks, Sen. Smith, and Democratic New York Assemblywoman Barbara Clark.51 Rep. Meeks said all money raised for the fund would go to victims, and none would be used for administrative costs.52 Rep. Meeks’ congressional campaign contributed $10,000 to the fund in 2005, though $5,000 appears to have been refunded to the campaign in 2006.53 Additionally, Assemblywoman Clark said she helped set up a gospel concert that raised $11,210, and that money was turned over to Rep. Meeks to benefit the fund.54

Nonetheless, according to New Direction’s tax returns, the only money spent on 55 Hurricane Katrina-related giving was $1,392 paid out in 2006 for hurricane victim expenses. According to press reports, the charity has not accounted for the rest of the money.56 Rep. Meeks initially issued a statement saying “the funds were utilized to help sustain displaced evacuees,” but did not provide details.57 A few days later, in February 2010, amid press reports of an investigation into the charity by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Rep. Meeks said he was not responsible for day-to-day operations at the charity and did not know what had become of the money.58

45 Ken Boehm, Rep. Gregory Meeks’ Charity Looks More Like Slush Fund, National Legal and Policy Center, January 31, 2010. 46 Id. 47 Lovett, Ross, and Smith, New York Daily News, Apr. 2, 2010.

48 Boehm, National Legal and Policy Center, Jan. 31, 2010; Editorial, Floyd Flake’s Friends, New York Post, February 2, 2010. 49 Melissa Klein and Isabel Vincent, Queens Pols Stiffed Katrina Victims, New York Post, February 7, 2010. 50 Id.

51 Id. 52 Boehm, National Legal and Policy Center, Jan. 31, 2010 53 Id. 54 Klein and Vincent, New York Post, Feb. 7, 2010. 55 Id. 56 Id. 57 Id. 58 Justin Elliott, U.S. Attorney Subpoenas NY Officials On Rep. Meeks’ Non-Profit, TPMMuckraker, February 12, 2010; Jennifer Fermino, Meeks Passes the Bucks on Scandal, New York Post, March 16, 2010.

Greater Jamaica Development Corp.

According to the New York Post, federal investigators have subpoenaed Rep. Meeks’ records for information about the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., a Queens nonprofit.59 Rep. Meeks has secured millions of dollars in public money for the charity, including $9.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration for rehabilitation of an underpass.60 Former Rep. Flake is a member of Greater Jamaica’s board.61

Ties to Convicted Financier Allen Stanford

Rep. Meeks, a member of the Caribbean Caucus, took at least six trips to luxurious Caribbean resorts paid for by the Inter-American Economic Council, a nonprofit heavily backed by banker R. Allen Stanford, between 2003 and 2007.62 In 2006, in response to questions from the New York Daily News about the trips, Rep. Meeks claimed the trips were for business, though his wife traveled with him.63 It helps my marriage,” he said.64 Stanford Financial Group also hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Meeks on the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands on July 18, 2008.65 Additionally, Stanford Financial Group’s political action committee and employees donated $15,100 to Rep. Meeks during the 2008 election cycle, making the firm the third largest contributor to Rep. Meeks’ campaign committee. 66 Rep. Meeks also reportedly tried to set up a meeting between Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Stanford after receiving the $40,000 loan from Mr. Ahmad.67

In March 2006, after the president of Mr. Stanford’s bank in Venezuela, Gonzalo Tirado, filed a lawsuit and raised questions about whether Mr. Stanford was involved in fraud, Mr. Stanford called Rep. Meeks, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and asked him to intervene by going directly to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and requesting a criminal investigation of Mr. Tirado.68 Two former federal agents then working for Mr. Stanford were listening to the call and said Rep. Meeks agreed to pursue the matter with President Chavez.69

Rep. Meeks traveled to Venezuela in 2006 on a trip described as a meeting to express gratitude for a program that provided heating oil to Americans.70 In 2007, Mr. Tirado was

59 Vincent and Klein, New York Post, Apr. 18, 2010. 60 Id. 61 Id. 62 Rob Barry, Michael Sallah, and Gerardo Reyes, Gregory Meeks’ Trip to Venezuela On Behalf of Stanford’s Bank Raises Ethics Questions, Miami Herald, December 27, 2009; Greg B. Smith, Meeks Not Shy About Gifts; Enjoyed 6 Caribbean Visits Thanks to an Accused Con Artist, New York Daily News, December 29, 2009.

63 Smith, New York Daily News, Dec. 29, 2009. 64 Id. 65 Complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by the National Legal and Policy Center, October 28, 2011 available at http://nlpc.org/stories/2011/11/03/watchdog-files-fec-complaint-against-rep-meeks-stanford-fundraiser. 66 http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2008&type=I&cid=N00001171&newMem=N& recs=20. 67 Editorial, Greg Meeks’ Felonious Friends, New York Post, October 12, 2012. 68 Barry, Sallah, and Reyes, Miami Herald, Dec. 27, 2009. 69 Id. 70 Id.

indicted in Venezuela.71 Rep. Meeks has declined to answer questions about the trip, about 72 whether he intervened in the case of Mr. Tirado, and about his relationship with Mr. Stanford.

In 2009, Mr. Stanford was indicted for running a Ponzi scheme and federal investigators reportedly began examining his ties to lawmakers, including Rep. Meeks.73 The current status of the investigation is unknown.

Status of Investigations

In April 2010, Rep. Meeks officially notified then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) he had been served with a subpoena for documents issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; press reports said the subpoena was tied to the federal corruption probe into the nonprofits tied to Rep. Meeks and other Queens politicians.74 In May 2013, federal authorities arrested former New York Senate Majority Leader John Sampson (D) on bribery charges related to the probe.75 Mr. Ahmad reportedly helped prosecutors gather information used to bring those charges.76 The current status of the federal investigation into Rep. Meeks is unknown, but recent news reports suggest it is ongoing.77 For example, in June 2013, former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-NY), who cooperated with federal agents and taped other New York politicians suspected of corruption, said she agreed to a plan to invite suspects to her home so they could be taped, but when federal agents suggested inviting Rep. Meeks, she told them he only “meets in parks” and would be unlikely to come.78

After conducting an investigation into Rep. Meeks’ loans, OCE referred his case to the House Ethics Committee on May 18, 2011.79 OCE found substantial reason to believe Rep. Meeks “failed to properly disclose the $40,000 as a gift on his 2007, 2008, and 2009 Financial Disclosure Statements in violation of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.”80 OCE noted that both Rep. Meeks and Mr. Ahmad had declined to cooperate with OCE’s investigation of the loan, and it “appeared to lack the normal indicia, including a set interest rate or repayment terms, of a legitimate loan. Therefore, this $40,000 transferred to Representative Meeks in 2007

71 Id. 72 Barry, Sallah, and Reyes, Miami Herald, Dec. 27, 2009. 73 Michael Sallah and Rob Barry, Feds Probe Banker Allen Stanford’s Ties to Congress, Miami Herald, December 29, 2009. On March 6, 2012, Mr. Stanford was found guilty on 13 of 14 counts of operating a Ponzi scheme, including charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstructing an investigation by the SEC. On June 14, 2012, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison. Press Release, Department of Justice, Allen Stanford Sentenced To 110 Years In Prison For Orchestrating $7 Billion Investment Fraud Scheme, June 14, 2012. 74 S.A. Miller and Murray Weiss, Subpoena Takes Meeks By Storm, New York Post, April 16, 2010. 75 Mitchel Maddux and Dan Mangan, State Sen. John Sampson Indicted on Embezzlement Charges, Faces 120 Years, New York Post, May 7, 2013. 76 Id. 77 Irving DeJohn and Kenneth Lovett, Smith Was ‘Willing To Sell His Soul To Be The Man Again’, New York Daily News, April 4, 2013; Maddux and Mangan, New York Post, May 7, 2013; John Marzulli, Water Gate Shirley’s Espionage Drama; Spy Pol Tells All About Her 007 Trickery, New York Daily News, June 10, 2013. 78 Id. 79 Press Release, House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member Regarding Mr. Michael Collins, Mr. Greg Hill, Representative Gregory Meeks, and Representative Jean Schmidt, July 1, 2011. 80 OCE Report and Findings, at 1.

appears to have been a gift.”81 OCE recommended the House Ethics Committee further review the matter and issue subpoenas to Rep. Meeks and Mr. Ahmad.82

In contrast, OCE found the 2010 loan from Four Investments contained an interest rate and repayment schedule, and was recorded in a written agreement that was executed and filed with the New York City Department of Finance.83 As a result, OCE recommended dismissal of allegations concerning that loan.84 On August 5, 2011, the House Ethics Committee said it would dismiss the allegation that Rep. Meeks received an improper loan in 2010, but would continue to review the 2007 payment.85

On December 20, 2012, the House Ethics Committee found Rep. Meeks failed to disclose the loan on his personal financial disclosure forms, but concluded there was no evidence his failure was in bad faith or was knowing or willful and decided to take no further action against him.86 The committee also said it could not conclude Mr. Ahmad’s loan to Rep. Meeks constituted an improper gift.87 Rep. Meeks told the committee he had lost the loan agreement, and thus could not produce evidence of the terms of the loan.88 The committee, however, was unable to interview Mr. Ahmad, whose lawyer said Mr. Ahmad would invoke the Fifth Amendment if the committee subpoenaed him, unless he was given immunity from prosecution.89 Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer did tell committee staff that Rep. Meeks had not signed any loan documents and the loan carried no fixed interest rate, contradicting Rep. Meeks’ version of events.90 The committee, however, said Mr. Ahmad’s “highly compromised credibility” meant it could not reasonably conclude Rep. Meeks had been untruthful without documentary evidence showing the money was not a loan.91

Legal Fees

Since 2010, Rep. Meeks’ campaign committee and political action committee have reported paying more than $400,000 in legal fees to seven firms: $211,000 to Dorsey & Whitney, $146,627 to Perkins Coie, $31,832 to Arent Fox, $4,740 to Wiltshire & Grannis, $4,205 to Thomas V. Kenney, Jr., Esq., $10,031 to Baldassare & Mara, and $2,000 to Steptoe & Johnson.92

81 Id. 82 Id. at 20. 83 Id. at 5. 84 Id. 85 Press Release, House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member Regarding Representative Gregory W. Meeks, August 5, 2011. 86 In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Gregory Meeks, H. Rep. No. 112-709, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. 5-6 (Dec. 20, 2012). 87 Id. at 6. 88 Id. at 4. 89 Id. at 5. 90 In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Gregory Meeks, H. Rep. No. 112-709, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. 6. 91 Id.; Press Release, House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics Regarding Representative Gregory W. Meeks, December 20, 2012. 92 Friends for Gregory Meeks, FEC Form 3, 2010-2013 Reports; Build America PAC, FEC Form 3X, 2010-2013 Reports.

Potential Violations

False Statements on Personal Financial Disclosure Forms

The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires all members of Congress to file financial disclosure reports.93 Under the statute, the attorney general may seek a civil penalty of up to $50,000 against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or fails to file or report any information required by the Act.94 House Rule 26 incorporates the financial disclosure provisions of the Ethics in Government Act.95

Federal law prohibits anyone from making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation”96 on “a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch.”97 Further, personal obligations aggregating over $10,000 owed to one creditor at any time during the calendar year, regardless of repayment terms or interest rates, must be included on personal financial disclosure statements.98

By deliberately leaving the $40,000 gift/loan from Mr. Ahmad off of his 2007 and 2008 financial disclosure forms, Rep. Meeks made at least two prohibited false statements. In addition, by mischaracterizing the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad as a loan on his 2009 financial disclosure reports, when in fact the money was more likely a gift, Rep. Meeks appears to have made another false statement.

In addition, given that Rep. Meeks appears to have received a discount of at least $170,000 on the price of his home, the $170,000 constitutes a gift that should have been reported on his personal financial disclosure form. The failure to include this gift is a false statement.

False Statement to the House Ethics Committee

Federal law also prohibits anyone from making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation”99 to “any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.”100

If Rep. Meeks’ claims to the House Ethics Committee that the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad was a loan, the loan had a repayment schedule and was to be repaid with interest, the terms were put in writing, and Rep. Meeks lost the loan agreement – all statements contradicted

93 Pub. L. No. 95-521, 92 Stat. 1824 (Oct. 26, 1978). 94 5 U.S.C. app. 4, § 104. 95 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, House Ethics Manual, at 248 (110th Cong., 2d Sess., 2008 ed.). 96 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). 97 18 U.S.C. § 1001(c)(1). 98 House Ethics Manual, at 258 (citing 5 U.S.C. app. 4 § 102(a)(4)). 99 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). 100 18 U.S.C. § 1001(c)(2).

by Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer – were false, he may have made additional false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Acceptance of a Bribe

Federal law prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act.101

It appears Rep. Meeks bought his house for at least $170,000 less than it was worth. If the congressman took any official action in exchange for receiving that discount, he may have accepted a bribe. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, that payment also may constitute a bribe. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have accepted bribes.

Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have accepted bribes.

Illegal Gratuity

The illegal gratuity statute prohibits a public official from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to accept anything of value personally for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such official.102 In considering this statute, the Supreme Court has held that a link must be established between the gratuity and a specific action taken by or to be taken by the government official.103

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving the at least $170,000 discount on his house, he may have violated the illegal gratuity statute. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, that payment also may constitute an illegal gratuity. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated the illegal gratuity statute. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have violated the illegal gratuity statute.

In addition, the House Ethics Committee has used the acceptance of bribes and gratuities under these statutes as a basis for disciplinary proceedings and punishment of members, including expulsion.104

101 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(2)(A). 102 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(B). 103 United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of Cal., 526 U.S. 398 (1999). 104 In the Matter of Representative Mario Biaggi, H.R. Rep. No. 100-506, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. (1988) (recommending expulsion of the member from the House); In the Matter of Representative Daniel J. Flood, H.R. Rep. No. 96-856, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. (1980).

Receiving Compensation For Exerting Improper Influence

A provision of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, 5 U.S.C. § 7353, prohibits federal employees, including members of Congress and staff, from soliciting or accepting anything of value from anyone who seeks official action from the employee’s agency, does business with that agency, or has interests which may be substantially affected by the performance of the employee’s official duties.105 House Rule 23, clause 3, similarly provides:

A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or employee of the House may not receive compensation and may not permit compensation to accrue to his beneficial interest from any source, the receipt of which would occur by virtue of influence improperly exerted from his position in the Congress.

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving at least a $170,000 discount on his house, he may have violated 5 U.S.C. § 7353 and House Rule 23. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, he may have violated 5 U.S.C. § 7353 and House Rule 23. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated these provisions. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have violated 5 U.S.C. § 7353 and House Rule 23.

Official Action for Personal Gain

Members of the House are prohibited from “taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else.”106 House members are directed to adhere to 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a), issued by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics for the Executive Branch, which provides:

An employee shall not use or permit use of his Government position or title or any authority associated with his public office in a manner that is intended to coerce or induce another person . . . to provide any benefit, financial or otherwise, to himself or to friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving at least a $170,000 discount on his house, he may have violated 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a). Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, he may have

105 The House Ethics Committee interprets this provision to apply to accepting campaign contributions, but not soliciting them. House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, “Memorandum For All Members, Officers and Employees,” Rules Governing (1) Solicitation by Members, Officers and Employees in General, and (2) Political Fundraising Activity in House Offices, April 25, 1997; House Ethics Manual, at 143-44, 150.

106 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, “Memorandum For All Members, Officers and Employees,” Prohibition Against Linking Official Actions to Partisan or Political Considerations, or Personal Gain, May 11, 1999.

violated 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a). If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated this provision. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have violated 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a). Unfairly Discriminating By Dispensing Special Favors

The Code of Ethics for Government Service provides that government officials should:

Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and never accept for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his official duties.107

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving at least a $170,000 discount on his house, he may have dispensed special favors in violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, he may have dispensed special favors in violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated this provision. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have dispensed special favors in violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service.

Gift Rule Violations

Rule 25, clause 5(a)(1)(A)(i) of the House rules states that “a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House may not knowingly accept a gift except as provided in this clause.” The rules define “gift” to mean “a gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forebearance, or other item having monetary value.”108

While members and staff may accept gifts on the basis of personal friendship, no gifts valued at over $250 may be accepted on this basis absent a written determination by the House Ethics Committee.109 Further, the donor, description and value of any gifts aggregating over $335 from a single source must be disclosed on a member’s personal financial disclosure statement.110

Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(R)(v) allows members, officers, and employees to accept opportunities and benefits that are available to a wide group, specifically providing that they may accept “loans from banks and other financial institutions on terms generally available to the public.” The House Ethics Committee has interpreted this rule:

107 72 Stat., Part 2, B12, H. Con. Res. 175, 85th Cong. (adopted July 11, 1958); House Ethics Manual, at 20. 108 Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(2)(A). 109 Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(5); House Ethics Manual, at 40. These determinations are not public. Id. 110 5 U.S.C. app. 4 § 102(a)(2); House Ethics Manual, at 84, 258-59. This amount has since been increased to $350.

to allow the acceptance of loans from persons other than financial institutions, provided that they are on terms which satisfy the requirements which the Committee had previously utilized in evaluating loans: that is, the terms are commercially reasonable, including requirements for repayment and a reasonable rate of interest.111

The Committee cautioned, however, that to ensure a loan is on commercially reasonable terms, before entering into any loan arrangement with someone other than a financial institution, members and staff “should contact the Committee for a review of the proposed terms, and a determination by the Committee on whether the loan is acceptable under the gift rule. Those who accept such a loan without Committee consideration run a risk of being found in violation of the gift rule, and possible other provisions of law as well.”112

Discounted House Price

It appears Rep. Meeks was permitted to purchase his house for a price one appraiser estimated was at least $170,000 less than the home’s value. Because discounts constitute gifts, Rep. Meeks appears to have accepted an improper gift by paying less than the home’s true value.

Gift of $40,000

Even though the House Ethics Committee said it could not conclude Mr. Ahmad’s $40,000 alleged loan was a gift, given that Rep. Meeks failed to seek the committee’s approval of it, and failed to repay any portion of the money until the FBI began investigating the matter, this so-called loan was more likely an impermissible gift.

Loan of $40,000

Alternatively, although there is no indicia suggesting the $40,000 was a loan from Mr. Ahmad – no loan agreement, no loan term, no payment schedule, and no cancelled checks – if the money was a loan rather than a gift, Rep. Meeks still violated federal law and House rules.

First, House rules require members and staff who wish to accept a personal loan from someone other than a financial institution to seek permission from the Committee before accepting the loan. Rep. Meeks has admitted he never put the matter to the Committee. As a result, Rep. Meeks violated House rules by accepting the $40,000 from Mr. Ahmad.

Second, the terms for loans accepted from anyone other than a financial institution must be commercially reasonable. Here, the absence of a loan term, payment schedule, and defined interest rate demonstrate the loan was not made on commercially reasonable terms. As a result, Rep. Meeks violated House rules by accepting the loan.

111 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, “Memorandum from Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” Gift Rule Provisions Applicable to Loans to Members, Officers, and Employees, May 23, 1997 (found in House Ethics Manual, at 381-384). 112 Id.

Third, as explained above, personal obligations aggregating over $10,000 owed to one creditor at any time during the calendar year, regardless of repayment terms or interest rate, must be included on personal financial disclosure statements, and failing to report them is a federal crime.113 Here, by deliberately failing to include the loan on his 2007 and 2008 financial disclosure forms, and by including it on his 2009 forms only after the FBI questioned the loan, Rep. Meeks appears to have violated federal law.

Conduct Not Reflecting Creditably on the House

House Rule 23 requires all members of the House to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”114 This ethics standard is considered to be “the most comprehensive provision” of the code.115 When this section was first adopted, the Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct noted it was included within the Code to deal with “flagrant” violations of the law that reflect on “Congress as a whole,” which might otherwise go unpunished.116 This rule has been relied on by the committee in numerous prior cases in which the committee found unethical conduct including: the failure to report campaign contributions,117 making false statements to the committee,118 criminal convictions for bribery,119 accepting illegal gratuities,120 and accepting gifts from persons with interest in legislation in violation of the gift rule.121

By purchasing a house for at least $170,000 less than its value, Rep. Meeks acted in a manner that brings discredit to the House. Similarly, by taking $40,000 from a New York businessman without any kind of loan agreement or repayment schedule, and then – only after a newspaper discovered and questioned the transaction – describing the money as a loan and suddenly repaying it, Rep. Meeks acted in a manner that brings discredit to the House. Finally,

113 House Ethics Manual, at 258 (citing 5 U.S.C. App. 4 § 102(a)(4)). 114 Rule 23, cl. 1. 115 House Ethics Manual, at 12. 116 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Report Under the Authority of H. Res. 418, H. Rep. No. 1176, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. 17 (1968).

117 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative John J. McFall, H. Rep. No. 95- 1742, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 2-3 (1978) (Count 1); In the Matter of Representative Edward R. Roybal, H. Rep. No. 95-1743, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 2-3 (1978). 118 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Charles H. Wilson (of California), H. Rep. No. 95-1741, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 4-5 (1978); H. Rep. No. 95-1743 (Counts 3-4).

119 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Michael J. Myers, H. Rep. No. 96-1387, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 2, 5 (1980); see 126 Cong. Rec. 28953-78 (Oct. 2, 1980) (debate and vote of expulsion); In the Matter of Representative John W. Jenrette, Jr., H. Rep. No. 96-1537, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 4 (1980) (Member resigned); In the Matter of Representative Raymond F. Lederer, H. Rep. No. 97-110, 97th Cong., 1st Sess. 4, 16-17 (1981) (Member resigned after Committee recommended expulsion). In another case, the Committee issued a Statement of Alleged Violation concerning bribery and perjury, but took no further action when the Member resigned (In the Matter of Representative Daniel J. Flood, H. Rep. No. 96-856, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 4- 16, 125-126 (1980)).

120 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Mario Biaggi, H. Rep. No. 100- 506, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 7, 9 (1988) (Member resigned while expulsion resolution was pending). 121 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Charles H. Wilson (of California), H. Rep. No. 96-930, 96th Cong. 2d Sess. 4-5 (1980); see 126 Cong. Rec. 13801-20 (June 10, 1980) (debate and vote of censure).

Rep. Meeks’ relationships with the New York charities that have been unable to account for their funds, as well as the actions he took at Mr. Sanford’s behest, may violate various federal laws, but in any event, certainly do not reflect creditably upon the House.

See more: http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt

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Mar 12 2014

Judge Denies Request From Embattled Pols

judge

Truth and justice cannot await.

Save the date.

A request to postpone the corruption trial of embattled former City Councilman Dan Halloran, GOP Vice Chairman Vince Tabone,  and state Sen. Malcolm Smith was denied last week and will proceed as set on June 2nd.

[From The Queens Gazette] A federal court judge has refused to delay the June 2 corruption trial of embattled state Sen. Malcom Smith, former City Councilmember Dan Halloran and Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vince Tabone. 

Attorneys for the three disgraced politicos last month requested that the trial be delayed to the end of the year, so it would not interfere with the 2013 primary elections. But Judge Kenneth Karas, who is overseeing the trial in White Plains, issued a finding on February 28 in which he denied the request for postponement.

Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2013, for allegedly plotting to bribe Republican Party officials for a spot on the party’s 2013 primary ballot. The indictment also charged Halloran, Tabone and others in the scheme. Smith, 56, and Halloran, 42, face up to 45 years in prison if convicted. 
The indictment charges that Smith, a democrat, allegedly sought help from Halloran, a conservative Republican, to get his name on the Republican Party primary. As a Democrat, Smith, under current law, needed Republican Party support in at least three boroughs to run as a Republican candidate without changing his party affiliation, authorities said.

Prosecutors charge that Smith, in an attempt to gather that support, asked Halloran to schedule meetings with Republican Party leaders and negotiate thousands of dollars in bribes. Meanwhile, Halloran and Tabone pocketed thousands of dollars of the bribe money, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys for Smith and Halloran say their client’s actions are not considered bribery under New York state law and are asking the court to toss some of the charges.
Karas said Smith, Halloran and Tabone will go on trial on June 2, as originally planneed.

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Jul 20 2013

Queens Politicians Attend Court On Federal Corruption Charges

cuffsHalloran, Tabone, Smith et al. appear in White Plains court on corruption charges. Highlights include Tabone’s request for a separate trial.

[From NY1]

One by one, Smith, Councilman Dan Halloran and former Republican party officials filed into federal court in White Plains on Friday. 

It was their first court appearance since being charged in a massive bribery scheme.

“Justice is going to take a long time to get, but once we get there, I am sure I will be very happy with the outcome,” Halloran said.

They are accused of trying to fix this year’s mayoral ballot, allegedly exchanging thousands of dollars in cash, so-called payoffs for Republican party officials to agree to put Smith, a Democrat, on the GOP line.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

In court on Friday, attorneys for both Smith and Halloran said they will make motions to dismiss some of the charges.

“I think the more we get into the legal issues here, and the facts and circumstances of the case, the more confident we are about the outcome,” said Smith attorney Ross Kramer.

“What they’re charging him with is not covered by the law,” said Halloran attorney Vinoo Varghese.

An attorney for Vincent Tabone, a former vice chair of the Queens Republicans, said he also wants the charges dismissed. If not that, then Tabone wants a separate trial.

Full story: http://manhattan.ny1.com/content/politics/political_news/185813/several-lawmakers-appear-in-court-on-corruption-charges#sthash.G6bslJmZ.dpuf

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/07/queens-politicians-attend-court-on-corruption-charges/

May 09 2013

Peralta Silent On Shady Expenditures

 

peraltaThe murky depth of Sen. Jose Peralta’s campaign financial records has aroused suspicion.

Crains Insider: On Wednesday, court papers revealed that Queens state Sen. Jose Peralta was one of nine people secretly taped by Queens state Sen. Shirley Huntley—eight of whom, according to federal prosecutors, are under investigation, though not accused of wrongdoing.

At the same time, Mr. Peralta, a leading candidate for Queens borough president, has paid $31,000 since the end of 2011 from his separate state Senate account to the New York City law firm Stroock Stroock & Lavan. The campaign finance disclosure does not list the specific purpose of the expenditure; the most recent payment to the firm from Mr. Peralta’s state Senate account, made last December, is listed simply as “legal fees.”

Mr. Peralta’s campaign did not comment despite multiple requests from The Insider on Wednesday evening and Thursday. Two lawyers at the firm also refused to comment.

For full article: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130509/BLOGS04/130509869

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Apr 19 2013

Halloran, Smith To Be Arraigned Next Week

http://www.anh-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/congress.jpg

Yesterday a federal grand jury officially indicted Councilman Dan Halloran and Senator Malcolm Smith et al. in a case involving bribery.

All defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this Tuesday in White Plains federal court.

More to follow.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/04/halloran-smith-to-be-arraigned-next-week/

Apr 18 2013

Shafran PRAISED Shady Senator

shafran

Shafran’s acute history of covering up possible criminal activity is mind-boggling.

Major discrepancy between a man’s words and his character.

While Austin Shafran continues his long-shot bid for the 19th CD, it’s important to note he went on record and PRAISED the character of his former boss, Senator Malcolm Smith who was busted just two weeks ago in a federal sting for corruption charges including election rigging.

“Senator Smith’s integrity, compassion, and respect for his office have never been questioned,” according to Shafran whom was quoted in an article which appeared in the New York Times in 2010 where members of Smith’s staff were linked to a suspicious nonprofit group in Queens under federal investigation.

But to Shafran, it was business as usual to try and sweep it all under the rug.

While serving as Smith’s spokesman, he released the foreboding statement defending the shady senator and his colleagues after federal prosecutors launched an investigation into New Direction Local Development Corporation, and another nonprofit related charity meant to provide aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Times, employees on Smith’s payroll were said to have played “major roles in the nonprofit group over several years, according to its tax filings and Web site, and two hold posts that suggest they are or were close to Senator Smith or are deeply involved in his political affairs.”

For the full story click here.

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Apr 17 2013

Hey Press, Leave Mapes Alone

Queens Politics

Would any of this even matter if there weren’t a case against Councilman Halloran?

I met her in grad school when she was the leader of a Republican Renaissance.

They are calling it a sex scandal but it’s really not. In the bizarre circumstances surrounding Councilman Dan Halloran’s charges, there is a tremendous amount of collateral damage being done to a young aspiring law student.

Mapes was always interested in politics. I had first heard of her while I was in grad school at St. John’s studying – you guessed it – government and politics. But first a little background. During my undergrad years at St. John’s University, I spent my time building up the Government and Politics Society as an advocacy organization with a watchdog function to oversee the organization in charge of all student clubs, known as SGI (student government incorporated). I advocated for increased transparency in budgetary procedure and an audit of what I believed to be the misappropriation of University allocated funding.

To make a long story short, there was a clear disparity in funding for certain organizations and I felt it needed to be addressed, if not corrected. I sought resolution with the powers that be, but after being stonewalled by the Treasurer of the Executive Board, (he claimed the funding formula was part of an age old process which he couldn’t reveal, but basically meant it was above all forms of scrutiny or improvement) I had enough, so I began a grassroots movement to organize students at first by seeking out the leaders of student run clubs and then by taking to the airwaves.

Soon, the Government and Politics Society began to push forward progressive ideals all over campus, but first and foremost, it’s primary focus was to open up the books of SGI. As the Government and Politics Society’s most outspoken President, I stated my case to student congress time after time after time, but even after my objections were heard, they fell on deaf ears with enough lip service to make you sick. It wasn’t long before we began to circulate flyers all around campus that questions were finally being raised such as, who is this young man that dares to speak up? Maybe he has a valid point? Sadly, by the time the movement had gained enough traction my time as an undergrad was up, but my work was far from finished (even though by the end of my senior year, all student club leaders were being encouraged to attend the budget procedure – a small victory). After being accepted into grad school, I came on board to aid the Government and Politics Society, as well as many other student-run clubs as an informal advisor to keep the momentum going. It was around that time when I began to witness freshmen students take up a leadership role in university politics. Meaghan Mapes was one of them, in fact she was the only one. Her work with the College Republicans was different from that of her predecessors. Mapes was an activist and she quickly figured out basic organizational psychology. She worked tirelessly to rebuild the organization and to bridge the growing disconnect between university politics and the local political scene. She put a new face on an old idea and helped cut the red tape that harmed student organizations. Soon every student became conscious (or at least semi-conscious) of the Mapes-led republican movement at SJU.

Even though I leaned Democrat, her work was notable across the aisle because it engaged students in an otherwise apathetic campus.

It’s not surprising that she had become the Deputy Chief of Staff to one of New York City’s most prolific Council members. She’s smart, articulate and driven – something the Republican Party really needs. But I think we tend to overlook how often love happens in the workplace. Senator Chuck Schumer would know; he’s been playing matchmaker with former staffers and colleagues for over a decade (some have even resulted in marriage). While some media outlets are calling it a sex scandal, I think we need to reevaluate this claim because it is absolutely sexist to assume she was promoted from campaign volunteer to Deputy Chief of Staff just because she is a young single female or just because a jealous former staffer said so, anonymously mind you. I believe we need to leave this young aspiring law student to her own destiny, which doesn’t seem to include Councilman Halloran or any wrongdoing on her part for that matter.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/04/hey-press-leave-meaghan-mapes-alone/

Apr 05 2013

Party Boss Unconnected With Corruption Scandal

Queens County GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa

Queens County GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa

He wasn’t even named in the criminal complaint.

It seems the political discourse has boiled down to guilt by association, so how does a certain council member escape any scrutiny in a statewide corruption sting?

Phil Ragusa is the official Chairman of the Queens County Republican Party. He is a man that has faithfully served government and politics for over thirty years. In his professional life he owns an accounting business and has volunteered his time and service to the Republican Party. His reputation has never been marred; he has been nothing but a good and decent citizen to the community. Maybe he didn’t give 100% of his time to rebuilding the party so he entrusted others with the responsibility to do just that. This trust may have been compromised, but for any political figure to call for his resignation at this point is ridiculous.

Ragusa wasn’t even named in the criminal complaint, but the Councilman didn’t care. Instead this loudmouthed Republican with misplaced priorities should be calling for Christine Quinn to resign not his own party’s leader.

Sensing a golden opportunity, the Republican Councilmember openly chastised his own Party Chairman and called for his resignation, even suggesting a replacement. Kind of ironic considering for his entire career in the halls of government where this Councilman serves has been the subject of one investigation after another. Yet not once has he stood up and pointed the finger at Christine Quinn – even at a time when the public trust for her leadership is nonexistent. Now after he’s kept quiet all these years, he tells us he wants his own bagman to take over? But why? Is it so he can have his own brand of control? His lingo is the jittery patter of a would-be Republican aristocracy, utterly incapable of introspection and yet, at least according to the Councilman, better than the rest of them in every way.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  It’s very easy to beat someone when they’re down. And maybe they deserve it. But the courts will have to decide this, not the pundits and certainly not Jay Leno. It’s never easy to standup to fraud and mismanagement; you don’t win a lot of friends this way, trust me. But it is hypocritical for the GOP councilman to take the moral high ground when his chief political operative was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case involving bribery and another advisor wearing an orange jumpsuit as we speak.

The rhetoric he uses is meant to define and defend his mutiny, to distinguish between the exalted them and the vast divergent world of not-them. Reporters turn the other cheek as if this never occurred, but it did: these criminals are the pillars of corruption for which his tenure was built upon. And if the Councilman wants to judge someone, he needs to take a good look at his former staff: a convicted felon and a man with a tainted reputation involving graft and bribery. If I am wrong, I ask this GOP councilman to stop grandstanding and hold a press conference to repudiate the speaker who has failed to maintain control of the legislative body. Her own scandals notwithstanding, it’s time to speak up Councilman.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/04/party-boss-nothing-to-do-with-charges/

Apr 03 2013

Bribery Scandal Informant has $keletons in his closet

Rockland County Times: The informant reported to be in the center of the Rockland County/New York City corruption fiasco currently rocking the political universe recently pled guilty to charges pertaining to a default on a loan of over $100 million to Citigroup.

Morris Stern of Monsey, also known as Moshe and Mark Stern, was in the center of a famous case which earned him a 2010 headline in Forbes Magazine as “Citigroup’s Bad Boy: how an untested businessman got a $126 million loan–and personally owes every dime of it.”

The bad deal was made in 2007 when Stern was only 2007. His case reads like a look into the world of bad business practices that dominated banking prior to the 2008/2009 financial meltdown.

“Several banks were pitching me at the same time,” says Stern. “Every bank, including JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, wanted product.”

Stern bought 11 shopping malls with the $126 million and they promptly floundered. Ultimately he filed for bankruptcy and Citigroup only recouped $40 million of the money.

Full Article: http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2013/04/03/informant-owed-citigroup-tens-of-millions/

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Mar 14 2013

Is Graziano Bundling For Avella?

 

Paul-Graziano

Spare some change for my boss?

Hold on to your wallets, Paul Graziano is looking for your money to help support career politician Tony Avella.

As reported before on Queens-Politics, Graziano has become a pawn in Tony Avella’s unquenchable lust for power. In this capacity, Graziano has been influential in building Tony’s war chest with an unimpressive $6, 857.00. Aside from his own repeated donations over the years, Graziano also has members of his household contribute a substantial sum to Avella’s campaign, and there’s no telling how much more bundling he’s responsible for.

Is it a favor to Tony Avella that he jumped in the race? The writing is on the wall. Other blogs have tried to cover it up and distract from the point, but given their longstanding political and reciprocal relationship, we’re wondering how far they will go to deceive the voters by forging fake resumes of community service chock filled with exaggerated and failed endeavors to convince us this man is a good choice for CD19.

Graziano is another one of these anti-development goo goos. He would like you to think he’s some sort of activist, but in reality if you strike that from his resume, you have another unqualified candidate running in a district where he doesn’t even live and has never been seen.

Given it’s a redistricting year, he doesn’t have to live in CD 19, and bundling is not illegal, but if these two cohorts think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the voting public, he’s got another thing coming.

Pretty soon they’ll throw Charles Barron in the mix, if he isn’t already.

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Feb 17 2013

Caravan of Corruption: Ulrich, Quinn, Miller left whistleblower to rot

It could happen to you.

SYSTEMIC FAILURE IN SOUTHEASTERN QUEENS FOR ITS CONSTITUENCY

By RICHARD C. IRITANO

 

Dear QUEENS-POLITICS Editor:

 

My name is RICHARD C. IRITANO, and I live in Ozone Park, QUEENS, New York.  For more than three years (and far longer with previous administrations), I have been unable to demand justice from my city councilman, Eric Ulrich, or state assemblyman, Michael Miller.  I have presented documented evidence to both politicians, of whom I am a constituent, regarding cover up, corruption and sabotage, where an investigation had commenced with the New York City Department of Investigations in May, 1993 that was never completed—and mysteriously and abruptly aborted without notification.  That public watchdog probe was supposed to address how the New York City Transit Authority made knowingly false, fake and inflammatory information about myself, when they chose to state in writing to the Department of Labor that I had falsified records, documents and company sign sheets.  Transit Authority management wrote to the DOL in an effort to block my entitlement to collect unemployment insurance benefits, where only days earlier, on April 18, 2013, I was told that my provisional services were no longer required—only three months after I received my fourth promotion in five years.  I was never told in person that I falsified any records, and worse, the woman who hired me in the last promotion that I was supposed to receive (but never did), had no authority to hire me, and insisted that I sign in at 8:00 a.m. daily, then disappear for the day until 4:00  p.m. when my day ended, so that management would not detect that I could be questioned if they should pay a visit to her office.  I was forced to comply but had written a daily diary about this betrayal of trust that she entangled me into.  (She retired honorably—I, the “whistleblower” was left to rot in obscurity.

The Transit Authority never showed up in court after their multiple allegations that I falsified records, and I therefore won my unemployment benefits retroactively.  Before I ever stepped foot into an unemployment office, I immediately complained to the MTA Office of the Inspector General (State of New York), and their General Counsel, Michael Boxer.  Mr. Boxer ignored the corruption and cover up, contradicted firmly established evidence and failed to investigate for three solid years from April, 1989 when I requested an immediate investigation.  The MTA only took action after I was forced to sue under an Article 78 Proceeding to seek, reinstatement, back pay and attorney fees, whereupon the Transit Authority admitted in court that they were not aware of my falsifying any and all documents.   For three solid years, this city agency (and inspector general’s office that is governed by New York State), continue to conceal evidence that could have restored my job, career, pension and retirement benefits, but chose to look the other way, while I had to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending myself in court for charges that never existed, and that were exposed to the MTA Inspector General after an oral argument hearing on May 9, 1991 revealed the deception and cover up.  The Appellate Court Chief Justice Rosenbaum called the actions of the Transit Authority and MTA unconsciounable, and prepared a ‘bench order’ for the Transit Authority to immediately expunge my department and central personnel files from any false and inflammatory information that suggested there was any misconduct committed by me.  The Transit Authority complied in writing on the next day, May 10, 1991, but I never was able to see my personnel files—despite several Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests that were sent by certified mail.  The corruption, cover up and sabotage were never addressed by the Transit Authority, or its parent company, the MTA and its Inspector General’s Office where General Counsel Michael Boxer has always been wholly aware of the dishonesty perpetuated by the MTA.  Whereas Michael Boxer could have recommended immediate reinstatement that could have made me “whole” again, he chose to conclude his own internal report that was three years delinquent by stating that, “Serious questions are raised about Mr. Iritano and record falsification,” which was simply not true, and firmly supported by the Transit Authority’s complete reversal of all misconduct allegations against me during oral argument in Appellate Court, Second Department, on May 9, 1991.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (whom I contacted in writing in August, 2006), Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblyman Michael Miller have collectively known about these charges for more than three years.  In fact, my story has been profiled twice, on September 30, 2010 in The Queens Chronicle, and in April, 1998, in The Forum of Queens.  Ms. Quinn’s patronage mill administration has created a hostile environment with me that betrays public service, and Ms. Quinn herself has contradicted the facts and mission of the City Council in the initial letter that she sent to my home address, dated August 31, 2006, where she clearly states that, “The Council is committed to ensuring that the laws and practices of city agencies are fair and just.  This extends to the terms and conditions of employment, termination of employment, and decisions on pensions.”  Clearly, my case of dishonesty, sabotage and official city misconduct fall in line with Mr. Quinn’s written purview.  In fact, Assemblyman Michael Miller wrote a letter to Ms. Quinn in September, 2012 (and I am still waiting to see it, despite multiple requests), supposedly questioning the jurisdiction of the City Council with regard to their failure to demand a completed investigation by the Department of Investigations (that DOI investigators and officials initiated in May, 1993, but failed to complete), and Ms. Quinn’s own role to initiate her own, independent investigation, as her August, 2006 letter clearly states.  When Mr. Miller showed me the reply to his letter to Ms. Quinn, dated December 6, 22012, it yet again contradicts her initial letter to me from six years ago, suggesting that her office cannot help me, despite an incomplete investigation by DOI investigators, intimating that the Transit Authority is a state governed agency (I maintained a CITY pension with New York City Employees’ Retirement System, and the agency that I worked for is the MTA New York City Transit).  Ms. Quinn continues to ignore these firmly established facts, and Mr. Miller still hasn’t sent a rebuttal reply to her office, despite meeting with Mr. Miller on Monday, December 17, 2012, and urging him to respond, with my assisted help in composing an evidentiary letter (with document attachments).  Moreover, Mr. Ulrich’s office has repeatedly refused to meet with me (after an initial meeting that took place at his Ozone Park headquarters, on Monday, October 4, 2010, that followed my profiled story in The Queens Chronicle a few days earlier, on Thursday, Sepbember 30th), and do his job (which is a dereliction of public duty, and a clear violation of the oath of public office that he swore to uphold).  Likewise, Michael Miller is wholly aware of the evidence and Eric Ulrich’s failure to investigate by re-ordering a completed investigation by the New York City Department of Investigations, but won’t take any action of his own to help me reverse this travesty of justice and retaliatory sabotage.  Mr. Miller has accompanied me to Albany, in September, 2010, to meet with former Governor Paterson’s labor relations director, Jeffrey Mann, who squarely blamed this cover up on city government (where I once had a pension with NYCERS, before I was frozen out of the system after five inactive years).  Likewise, Eric Ulrich and his former chief of staff, Bart Haggerty (whose brother John embezzled nearly one million dollars from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reelection campaign (and was convicted last year followed by mandatory prison time that he will be serving this year), continued to blame the State of New York, where the MTA Office of the Inspector General has jurisdiction, (where they continue to ignore the corruption, cover up and evidence (that firmly supports my case) with impugnity.  Hence, the state blames the city; the city blames the state, and I have been left to rot for nearly 24 years, despite solid and indisputable evidence that should have been able to ascribe blame, punishment and official city and state misconduct to the management who conspired to stall, delay and ignore solid evidence that my case wholly supports—based on a body of evidence that has never changed, to my complete advantage of honesty, transparency and full disclosure.

When clear abuses of “Taxation Without Representation” are evident, public service officials like Ulrich and Miller, of whom I am a constituent, refuse to take action and do what they are paid in a position that demands their challenge to authority, and to question, remedy and address any concern of a constituent, where does someone like me turn to for help, action, accountability and a proper, completed investigation?  My employment record has been spotty in an environment of under paid, underemployment ever since this debacle infected my life and destroyed my standards of living, without the security of my earned and deserved pension, health insurance, and independence as my family and me continue to languish in deeper levels of beggary, obscurity, quiet desperation, helplessness, hopelessness and local government anarchy.  I deserve representation from the public servants whose purview includes representation to me as a constituent with a solid cause of action.  My lawyer, Robert Ligansky, proved willful misconduct by the Transit Authority, and failure of the MTA to properly investigate, and when the MTA finally completed their intentionally delayed investigation from April, 1989 to September, 1992, there still was no firm resolve or recommendation for restitution from Michael Boxer and the MTA Inspector General’s Office, where I was a total victim of a corrupt, dishonest, dishonorable  and disloyal bureaucracy—despite a full reversal of all previous allegations against me by the Transit Authority that was revealed in Appellate Court, Second Department, on May 9, 1991, where my lawyer and me personally witnessed their on-the-record testimony and reversal.  I don’t need another lawyer—I need my local representatives to demand a fair, honest, thorough investigation without further delay, and to question both the Transit Authority and MTA Office of the Inspector General’s Office (and Michael Boxer), who don’t seem to be accountable to no one, because they appear to be exalted.

I would greatly appreciate some urgently needed help from Republican Committee Chairperson, Phil Ragusa, City Councilman Dan Halloran and anyone else who can offer reliable help, in lieu of the epic failure, apathy, arrogance and cowardice that have been solidly present throughout my debacle with Eric Ulrich and Michael Miller (and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., and his predecessor, Serfin Maltese).  I can be reached at my home number, 718/835-6948.  My cell telephone number is 917/837-2573.  Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office telephone number in Ozone Park is 718/641-1591; Assembly Michael Miller can be reached at his Woodhaven office at 718/805-0950.  Both representatives have offered nothing beyond neverending stress, anxiety, and a “delay, deny, and hope that you die” bureaucracy.  With so many scandals of corruption that effect and relate to constituents like me who have practically had to beg for proper representation with regard to honest, ethical city and state government leadership, I should not have to lose my pension, present and future because of false, fake and failed leadership—and the very public representatives who have collectively been the obstacle to fair labor practices and treatment, that now overshadow any corruption and misconduct by the Transit Authority and MTA.  The hurdles keep getting bigger for me to jump over, while politicians throw their hands up in the air and feign cluelessness.  I am disgusted, fed up and betrayed by corrupt, dishonest and hostile leadership.  Please respond with urgently needed help.

 

Sincerely,

 

RICHARD C. IRITANO

107-41 107th Street

Ozone Park, New York   11417

917/837-2573 (cell telephone)

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/02/quinn-ulrich-miller-lef-whistleblower-to-rot/

Oct 22 2012

Candidate urges investigation into possible cover-up linked to Avella

 

Joseph Concannon pictured with Rep. Bob Turner

Eyebrows are being raised as Joseph Concannon, a former NYPD Captain running for state senate against Tony Avella, is questioning his opponent’s role in regards to the recent firing of a staff member involved in a sexual harrassment claim.

Press Release:  CALL FOR ALLEGED AVELLA HARRASSMENT VICTIM TO COME FORWARD

Last month State Sen. Tony Avella made headlines once again by breaking with his colleagues when he called for Speaker Silver to step down in the face of an apparent cover up of sexual harassment charges involving Assembly Member Vito Lopez.

No stranger to capturing media attention with gimmicks and protest, Avella seems to have gotten this one right when he stated, “The culture in Albany of ‘What happens in Albany stays in Albany’ has to stop… Assembly Member Silver… is now seen as the classic example of the dysfunction and back room deals that has plagued Albany for decades. If ever that was a time for change – it is now.”

However, as with many of Avella’s calls for action there is no follow through.

Avella’s own office was the subject of sexual harassment and discrimination claims with expense records that indicate the state Senate paid a Manhattan law firm $22,444 in taxpayer funds earlier this year to investigate allegations of harassment made by a female member of Avella’s district office staff.

Apparently Avella has provided enough information to satisfy the journalistic concerns of the Daily News who to their credit broke this story. However, had they not unearthed it even what little we know would never have been disclosed and even now we only have Avella’s side of the story.

Accordingly, we are calling on the staffer in question to contact us and tell us her side if the story. Too often Albany politicians use their power and influence to advance their careers at the expense of those without such resources and it would not be the first time the pot called the kettle black.

News reports indicate that the staffer was eventually fired for so-called performance issues and that supposedly the allegations did not involve Avella directly but rather “management staff” but given Avella’s own claims regarding Albany’s culture of corruption and predilection to cover things up can we really rely on this? How do we know this staffer did not get a raw deal when by Avella’s own admission Albany has a corrupting “circle the wagons” culture?

A spokesman for Concannon stated,

We are not alleging any wrong doing on behalf of Senator Avella. However Joseph Concannon is a former NYPD Police Captain and highly trained investigator with over 25 years in law enforcement. We would therefore welcome speaking to the young lady affected by these allegations and providing her with an opportunity to share her side of the story. Even if Senator Avella has no personal culpability and did nothing wrong as an employer and supervisor he has a legal and moral obligation to ensure his office is not a hostile work environment. This can’t be taken lightly or just papered over. One has to ask when did he personally first become aware of the allegations? What actions did he take to correct the situation? Where any similar allegations made by or against him or his “management staff.” Also was the law firm hired by the Senate really hired to investigate or was it hired to defend?
Concannon stated,
As a husband and as a father of daughters I am appalled when I hear about allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace but doubly so when it is alleged to have happened in the offices of one of our elected representatives. I applaud the Daily News for having unearthed this but gather that the Daily News did not have the opportunity to interview this young lady and obviously Newspapers do not have subpoena powers. This warrants another look and I just want this young woman to know she has a place to turn for help and a place to share her side of the story. If these allegations prove unfounded or overstated so be it but I am committed to running an office that I would be comfortable having my daughters work in.  
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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/concannon-questions-possible-avella-cover-up/

Oct 04 2012

Behar says two years later and Albany is still a mess!

For interesting and thought provoking political commentary check out www.boycottevil.com

Steve Behar, a former candidate for Assembly and campaign manager for James Sanders’ primary victory, is calling shenanigans on so-called “independent reform” candidates.

Behar’s blog, www.boycottevil.com is a must read for political enthusiasts. In his most recent article (which caught my eye), names were omitted, however I’m willing to bet the farm he was referring to State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (and other candidates too) who rode into office touting reform platforms and two years later have failed to deliver on any of their promises.

Legislative reform bills are also suggested and worth further exploration. I know they are mere suggestions but it’s more than most politicians have done in their first term(s).

Anyway, hope is not lost as another essay contest from disgraced ex-Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza’s protege may very well clean up the cesspool in Albany.

Check out the article below:

From BoycottEvil: Very soon voters in New York State will once again head to the polls to vote in the upcoming Election.  While I am NOT a candidate for office this year, the season brings me back to 2010 when I was a candidate for the New York State Assembly.  It also reminds me of how dysfunctional our state government still is and how hard it will be to fix it.

In the two years since I ran for the Assembly, our state government in Albany has once again been a miserable failure and remains a cesspool of corruption.  Two years ago nearly every candidate from Montauk to Buffalo was a self-proclaimed “Independent Reformer.”  These charlatans promised to reign in the lobbyists and special interests, to institute independent redistricting and pass ethics laws to curb the corruption in Albany.  None of that happened in the last session of the legislature.

Lobbyists and special interests still buy and own our politicians.   Many times it’s not the most informed candidates who win an election.  It’s also not the most well-intentioned candidates who win elections.  Instead, most of the time it’s the candidate who is best at selling his or her soul to the monied lobbyists and special interests who get elected.  Once these rascals get to Albany, instead of writing and passing legislation for the betterment of their communities and our state, they push legislation and push contracts that support their financial backers.

Regarding independent redistricting, while in 2010 nearly every candidate signed Mayor Koch’s pledge to pass an independent redistricting law, once they got to Albany the same folks forgot their pledge and saddled our state with hideous, politically motivated districts for the next ten years. Instead of having an independent commission draw district lines that are concise and compact and keep communities together, we once again have politically motivated districts that snake through and divide communities in order to protect the incumbent representative’s re-election prospects.

The worst act of insult was the legislatures passage of a joke of an ethics law.  The law did nothing to stop the corruptive influence of dirty money in Albany.  No one cared to pass campaign finance laws to stop the corruption.  No one cared to close the loopholes that monied interests use to by-pass the current campaign finance laws.  No one passed any laws to stop the revolving door between government officials and the lobbyists.

My suggestion to the winners of the 2012 state elections is to go to Albany and actually do something!  I suggest you start with three important pieces of legislation.

1.     It’s time to pass real campaign finance reform that eliminates the strangle hold that lobbyists and special interests have on our politicians. Arizona, Maine and Connecticut each have enacted public financing of elections laws that have worked.   It is time to create such a program for New York.  It’s time that politicians answer to the people that vote for them and not the people who finance their political campaigns.

2.   While it won’t help for until the next decade, Albany must pass an independent redistricting law now so that we don’t have to deal with the political shenanigans that we witnessed this year.

…. For the full article visit the site.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/behar-says-albany-is-still-a-mess-reform-is-dead/

Oct 11 2011

Meet The Most Corrupt Politician, possibly ever.

Queens Politics names ex-Assembly Member Brian McLaughlin, the reigning Champ as the most corrupt politician of the year, possibly the decade.

In an email, a reader asks who is the most corrupt local politician to ever be elected? That’s easy. Brian McLaughlin.  Find out what happened when Brian met Tony Seminerio in prison, the man be befriended by wearing a wire in exchange for leniency.

It’s eight more years in a federal penitentiary for disgraced ex-Assembly Member Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), whose name is a euphemism for corruption, looting, payoffs and bribery in Queens political circles – and was known to bed high-profile elected officials and campaign operatives.

McLaughlin, who was a former labor leader and seven term legislator is generally perceived as lower than wife-beater Hiram Monseratte, and definitely lower than elected officials who allegedly don’t reside in the districts they represent. Find out why.

That’s some intro! What does one have to do to win the Queens Politics 2011 Malfeasance award? Become the biggest crook  in the history of local politics.

While Brian McLaughlin has been rotting away in Butner Federal prison for the past two years (8 more to go), his memory lives on in the annals of Queens Political history. This is the kind of guy that would steal your wallet then help you look for it.

Who did Brian McLaughlin STEAL From? The real question is whom didn’t Brian steal from?

Brian’s rap sheet is filed in over a dozen volumes but he is most remembered for his theft and embezzlement of  $3.1 million from a Queens Little League including shaking down Local 3 Electricians, and Petrucelli Corp. engineers.

The judge said his crime spree was “mind boggling.”

Brian lived a life of luxury by exploiting children and non-profit organizations.

His catalog of wrongs to the court took a stomach wrenching 45 minutes to complete. With stolen funds, Brian bought his mistress an imported car, and even forced union members to kill rats in his basement, dog sit and hang Christmas lights without pay. See the News Buster article which claims the NYT ‘whitewashed’ the story and left out the “juicy details.”

Brian was a local guy trusted with the public interest and ended up only serving himself and his family.

Betraying Tony Seminerio

What most people didn’t know was who Brian was as a person. According to inside sources, Brian, also an ex-labor leader, was known to speak in a fake Irish brogue to help him fit in with union workers. What a tool! In a story that I will always remember, Brian –who was subsequently outcast by his colleagues after his indictment – betrayed the one guy that tried to be his friend. That friend was ex-Democratic Assembly Member Tony Seminerio.

Seminerio was no angel, but in a gesture of goodwill reached out to his embattled colleague, Brian – the only politico to do so. How did Brian repay Seminerio’s generosity?

Brian cooperated with the authorities by building a relationship of trust with him and ultimately  wearing the wire that got Seminerio indicted. And he did it all with a smile.

What was going through his head? Brian thought he would walk for his cooperation by giving up Seminerio, the one guy that tried to reach out to him, but much to his dismay, my inside sources say Brian was shocked when he was sentenced to 10 years. “But I cooperated!” I’m sure that’s what he thought. Turns out for his cooperation in the investigation of Anthony Seminerio, who was sentenced to 6 years in a million dollar influence-peddling scheme , Brian was spared 5 years off of his sentence.

When Brian and Tony were sentenced, they were both assigned to the Butner Federal Correction Complex. While going to lunch for the first time in prison, Brian ran into Tony – the first time since he sung like a canary in the court room. Tony and Brian, both former teflon dons looked at each other straight in the eye.

Brian almost didn’t recognize Tony in his new digs. There he was in an off-yellow jumpsuit  eating a prison special; bologne in hand. As the story goes, Brian looked up, dropped his lunch tray to the ground, turned tail and ran away as fast as possible. The guards were laughing. This would be the last time they would ever be in the same room together.  Tony died in 2011.

I never met Brian. But I vaguely knew of his son from the neighborhood who was arrested in a prescription drug-selling ring last year. Furthermore Brian helped start the William Jefferson Clinton Democratic Club which he siphoned money  from. Thankfully we have  gotten as far away as possible from Brian’s legacy of malfeasance.

Did McLaughlin pay any of it back?

In August 2011, Celeste Katz reported that Brian has surrendered his $80,000 Mercedes and sold his $652,000 home in Long Island to help pay off the debt.

He was supposed to cough up the $783,000 remaining in his campaign account, and in March 2010 McLaughlin delivered a $457,253 check to prosecutors with the expenditure marked “preliminary order of forfeiture.”

Yet he still has more than $285,000 in the campaign war chest – sitting in a tax-free bond account earning interest, campaign records filed last month show.

McLaughlin’s lawyer, Michael Armstrong, said the ex-assemblyman “has turned over all his forfeited assets to the government and he is not standing in the way of anybody receiving payment.”

According to the Post Brian’s mom, 84, is also a victim of his corrupt deals,

Crooked ex-politician Brian McLaughlin’s mom has added her name to the list of victims in his epic, $3.1 million rip-off scheme.

Court papers filed by Ilene McLaughlin, 82, say she lost $145,000 that the former Queens assemblyman borrowed against his swanky second home on Long Island’s exclusive North Shore.

The widowed granny, who lives in a modest co-op apartment in Flushing, says in her self-filed court documents that she handed over the dough in March 2006 but never got a nickel back.

For his crimes against the neighborhood, Brian McLaughlin is awarded the 2011 Most Crooked Politician Award.

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/10/future-elects-beware/

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