Former Queens Assemblymember Jimmy Meng, the father of congressional hopeful and current Assemblymember Grace Meng, has been arrested on a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly attempting to scam $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant, federal officials said.
Meng allegedly promised the defendant — who sought the former elected official’s help after being charged with state tax crimes — that his sentence would be reduced to one year if he paid prosecutors $20,000 each in bribes, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Federal prosecutors said Meng offered to be the middle man, instructing the individual to conceal and deliver the $80,000 payout in a fruit basket. The government investigation, however, uncovered no evidence the past politician even contacted prosecutors, and officials said Meng planned to keep the bribe money for himself.
“Give it to me and I will give it to them,” Meng allegedly told the defendant during a July 17 recorded telephone call, the criminal complaint shows.
Meng was caught red-handed on July 24 at his Flushing lumber yard accepting the fruit basket which held thousands of dollars in cash from the defendant, who was cooperating with FBI special agents, authorities said. He was immediately placed under arrest and was released the following day on a $1 million bond secured by his two homes in Bayside and Flushing, said Bob Nardoza, spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
The ex-legislator was admonished a few minutes after his hearing by Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak for calling the defendant on his cell phone, Nardoza said. Contacting the witness, Nardoza said, violates bail restrictions, and Meng was warned further tampering could land him immediately in jail, the U.S. attorney spokesperson said.
“Jimmy Meng sought to be a power broker in the halls of justice. But the influence he sought to peddle was corrupt and his power was illusory,” Lynch said in a statement. “This arrest confirms that justice is not for sale.”
Lynch said he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
“This type of conduct discredits the trust we place in our public officials,” said FBI assistant director in charge Janice Fedarcyk.
Last month, Grace Meng won the 6th District Congressional primary, beating three opponents and securing her seat in the general election against Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran.
She thanked her parents during the June 26 victory speech, calling them her “moral compass.” But the congressional candidate is now distancing herself from her father, saying in a statement she is “independent” of him and “always have been, always will be.”
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations,” Grace Meng said, adding she had no knowledge of his actions or the investigation. “Until more facts emerge and we have a better understanding of the situation, the only thing further I’ll say is that I urge my father to fully cooperate with all authorities.”
Jimmy Meng contributed $5,000 to his daughter’s congressional campaign, Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure reports show. He gave her $2,500 for her primary run and another $2,500 for the general election, according to filings.
The former assemblymember was elected to office in 2004, but only served for one year. Grace Meng has been holding his old seat since 2008.
Halloran, who has issued several statements this month criticizing how his opponent handles major district and national issues, declined to comment.