Tag Archives: Campaign

John Liu’s ex-campaign workers sentenced to prison


| mchan@queenscourier.com

City Comptroller John Liu painted the Thursday sentencing and overall investigation of his two former campaign workers as a “set up a weak man and a wonderful young woman.”

His ex-campaign treasurer and fundraiser will serve time in prison for less than a year for funneling illegal contributions in a straw donor scheme during his bid for mayor.

Jia “Jenny” Hou, 26, was sentenced to 10 months in prison on October 10 for attempting to commit wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing justice.

The former campaign treasurer from Flushing will also be under supervision for three years.

Another aide, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, will serve four months in prison and three years under supervision for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and attempting to commit wire fraud.

The 47-year-old of New Jersey was a fundraiser and contribution bundler for Liu.

“For reasons I may never fully understand, the U.S. Attorney’s Office set out to destroy me with what has been described as an extraordinarily intrusive and exhaustive investigation,” Liu said in a statement. “Failing to find that I had done anything wrong, they proceeded to set up a weak man and a wonderful young woman.”

The comptroller, who lost his Democratic primary for mayor in September, said Hou did not deserve the “ordeal and injustice she has been put through.”

He said she was “a good person and exceptional individual” when she was found guilty in May.

Federal officials said Hou and Pan evaded Campaign Finance Board restrictions that limit donor contributions to citywide candidates to $4,950.

The pair used straw donors, prosecutors said, or individuals who illegally make political contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.

Hou was caught offering to reimburse an individual for donations well-above the allowed amount during a series of instant messages on July 14, court records show.

Prosecutors said she also instructed campaign volunteers on how to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors on the contribution forms in order to make it appear official.

Hou also failed to give up documents with identities of several campaign contributors in response to subpoenas and lied about producing them, according to court records.

Pan was caught funneling $16,000 in campaign contributions by an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a businessperson interested in supporting the comptroller, records show.

Liu was not accused of any wrongdoing. However, the trial kept Liu’s campaign from receiving public matching funds that could have doubled his war chest. 

“I am very sad but even more angry at what has occurred,” Liu said after the sentencing of his former aides.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office was wrong and should not be proud of its conduct.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing Democrat Paul Graziano officially starts District 19 campaign


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Graziano

A Flushing urban planner officially joined District 19’s City Council race while another candidate bowed out.

Democrat Paul Graziano kicked off his campaign on March 25 at Bowne Park to unseat Republican incumbent Councilmember Dan Halloran.

“My campaign is very simple. Protect your neighborhood. Do no harm,” said Graziano, a lifelong North Flushing resident. “It’s hard for me to think about theoretical and esoteric problems when we’ve got problems at hand in the community.”

The 41-year-old community activist was surrounded by family, friends and dozens of civic leaders Sunday when he announced his plans to preserve the neighborhood from overdevelopment, protect city parkland and ensure a better education system citywide.

Graziano also called for a “reconstituted” Board of Education with more borough subdivisions. He said the move would allow local school districts to operate independently and give communities a voice in the city’s decision-making process.

“It’s really important to make sure that we have an agenda that focuses on the needs of this community as well as, really, things that are crossing the entire city in importance,” Graziano said. “When we’re in a situation where I think every neighborhood feels embattled by the kinds of things that are happening, we have to stand up and do something about it.”

The Council hopeful faces a Democratic primary with former Assemblymember John Duane, Austin Shafran — the former vice president of public affairs for Empire State Development under Governor Andrew Cuomo — and attorney Paul Vallone, who is the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein dropped out of the race Sunday, citing “one of the most difficult years” of his life after his mother passed away last December.

“My mom was an amazing woman who wanted me to continue fighting for the issues I care about. However, after consulting with my friends and family, I have decided to suspend my campaign,” Silverstein said. “This campaign might be ending, but I am not going away. I will continue to advocate for the issues that are important to me.”

Silverstein had long set his sights on the seat, registering his campaign committee last May.

The Democratic primary winner will square off in November with Halloran, who was elected to the Council in 2009.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Morning Roundup


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high near 75. Southwest wind 10 to 20 mph. Possible afternoon showers. Saturday night: Partly cloudy, with a low of 48. Northwest wind 10 to 15 mph.

Unarmed Guardsman shot by NYPD wanted to be a cop: mother

The unarmed Army National Guardsman who was pulled over on a Queens road and fatally shot by a cop yesterday wanted to become a police officer. “That was his dream,” Noel Polanco’s mother Cecilia told The Post today. Palanco’s 15-year-old sister Amanda Reyes said Polanco always wanted to help people. Read More: NY Post

Queens community taking stand against Neo-Nazi group

A Queens community is taking a stand against a hate group looking to move into their neighborhood. Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn announced in late September that they would be opening up a headquarters in New York. Officials say there are reports of Golden Dawn activity as well as sighting of their literature around Astoria. Read More: NY1

Court supports Queens woman’s right to die

The state’s highest court has sided with a terminally ill Queens woman waging a legal battle with her parents over her decision to be taken off life support. A brain-stem tumor has paralyzed 28-year-old Grace Sung Eun Lee from the neck down, and she depends on a tube to eat and one to breathe. The court’s decision Friday clears the way for Lee to chose to end her life. Read More: NBC NY

Drop in jobless figure gives jolt to race for president

The jobless rate abruptly dropped in September to its lowest level since the month President Obama took office, indicating a steadier recovery than previously thought and delivering another jolt to the presidential campaign. Read More: NY Times

CC Sabathia, Yankees open ALDS Sunday against Baltimore Orioles and Camden Yards

BRING ON THE BIRDS. The Yankees can finally begin preparing for their American League division series after the Orioles dispatched the Rangers in the AL’s  first ever wild-card game Friday night. After holding off the surging Orioles for the AL East title over the final month, the Yankees must now travel to Baltimore for the first two games of the best-of-five first round. Read More: Daily News

 

 

Second Liu campaign worker busted


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Another worker on City Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign has been arrested on fraud charges.

Jia “Jenny” Hou — a 25-year-old campaign treasurer for the comptroller — was busted for illegally funneling campaign funds for the comptroller’s unofficial 2013 try for mayoral candidacy, feds said.

According to restrictions laid out by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB), campaign donors are only allowed to contribute up to $4,950 to citywide candidates. Prosecutors said Hou conspired to evade the limit by engaging in a fraudulent scheme that involved the use of “straw donors” — or individuals who unlawfully make political contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.

Hou, a Queens resident, is also charged with obstructing the government’s investigation. According to court records, she failed to produce “facially inculpatory documents” in response to subpoenas, while allegedly lying about producing complete documents and failing to disclose the identities of several campaign contributors.

“New York’s campaign finance laws are not optional. They ensure that all candidates operate on a level playing field and that everyone plays by the rules,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Today, we allege that Jia Hou, a campaign treasurer, was a central figure in a coordinated scheme to break the city’s campaign finance laws. Unlawful campaign conduct will not be tolerated.”

Hou was allegedly caught offering to reimburse an individual for donations well-above the allotted NYCCFB amount during a series of instant messages on July 14, and she also allegedly instructed campaign volunteers on how to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors on contribution forms in order to make it appear official.

Last November, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan — Liu’s campaign fund-raiser — was arrested on similar conspiracy and wire fraud charges. According to court records, he allegedly funneled $16,000 in campaign contributions and was caught red handed by an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a businessperson interested in supporting the comptroller.

Meanwhile, Liu — a Flushing Democrat — has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has since returned nearly $50,000 collected in contributions, said a campaign spokesperson.

“I am stunned by this news about Jenny Hou,” Liu said. “These accusations against her are uncharacteristic and unexpected. Jenny is a smart, hardworking person who I hope will be treated fairly.”

Hou is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of attempting to commit wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted, she could face up to 60 years in prison.

According to Martin Adelman, her attorney, Hou plans on pleading not guilty to the charges.

“She’s an idealistic young person, and working for John Liu’s campaign was a way to realize that idealism,” Adelman said. “She has tremendous respect for him.”

Liu’s campaign treasurer busted in ‘straw donor’ scheme


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu’s campaign treasurer busted in ‘straw donor’ scheme: feds

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu’s campaign treasurer was busted today on charges she helped funnel illegal political donations into the Queens Democrat’s war chest. Jia “Jenny” Hou conspired to help wealthy Liu backers evade a $4,950 limit on individual contributions by using “straw donors” to pass along their money, according to the feds. Hou, 25, was allegedly caught offering to reimburse a crooked donation during a series of computer “instant messages” on July 14, and allegedly instructed campaign volunteers on how to make the contributions look legit. Read More: New York Post

 

Third student dies from Ohio high school shooting

The death toll rose to three Tuesday in the shooting rampage in an Ohio high school cafeteria as schoolmates and townspeople grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the teenage gunman off. The teenager under arrest in Monday’s attack, T.J. Lane, faced an afternoon hearing in juvenile court. Shaken residents offered condolences and prayers to the families of those killed and wounded at 1,100-student Chardon High School in suburban Cleveland. All three of the dead were students. Read More: New York Post

 

Waitress claims veteran NYPD detective took advantage of her at Washington Heights restaurant

A waitress says her boss gave her $200 to party with some cops, protested when one put the moves on her in a back room, and then got her underwear back the next day. The 36-year-old woman, whose allegations prompted the NYPD to assign four cops to desk duty, thinks a veteran detective took advantage of her at the Washington Heights restaurant where she worked. But she admits she can’t remember it – because she blacked out. Read More: Daily News

 

Manningham ups odds to ’50-50′ he stays with Giants

Mario Manningham last week, back home in Ohio, was quoted in the Youngstown News that he believes there’s a 75 percent chance he will leave the Giants in free agency and sign elsewhere. Tuesday morning, he refuted that claim. “I didn’t say that,’’ Manningham said on WFAN. “You know how rumors get spread, I didn’t say anything like that.’’ Manningham then increased the odds of him staying with the Giants. Read More: New York Post

 

Ex-Girl Scout finance director gets 3 to 9 years for swiping $310K

The former finance director for the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York was sentenced today to three to nine years behind bars after she failed to return a large chunk of the $310,000 she allegedly embezzled over the course of two years. “I apologize for the situation,” said Yaasmin Hooey, 35, during her sentencing hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court. Prosecutors said Hooey stole the money by cashing or depositing into her personal bank account a series of 65 checks written off the Girl Scouts’ payroll account. Read More: New York Post

 

Names Of NYPD First Responders Added To Cancer Study

The names of tens of thousands of New York City POlice Department uniformed officers and civilian members who worked at the World Trade Center are now at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Mayor Michael Bloomberg handed over the names of 39,921 people, along with their job title, age, race, and gender on Monday. This comes after the city initially refused to turn over the information, because of privacy concerns. Mount Sinai is treating the first responders. Read More: NY1

Mourners Gather At Fallen NYPD Officer’s Funeral


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mourners Gather At Fallen NYPD Officer’s Funeral

Family, friends, and fellow officers will gather on Long Island today to say a final goodbye to a city police officer who was gunned down last week in Brooklyn. The funeral for Officer Peter Figoski will take place at 11 a.m. at the Parish of St. Joseph Church in Babylon. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among the hundreds who paid their respects on the second day of Figoski’s wake yesterday. Police say Figoski, 47, was shot in the face by Lamont Pride, 27, during a botched robbery last Monday morning in Cypress Hills. Pride is charged with first and second degree murder in Figoski’s death. Read More: NY1

 

Kim Jong Ils death rocks North Korea, gives region jitters

It was the scenario strategists from Beijing to Washington fretted over: Kim Jong Il’s sudden death befalls North Korea, before the isolated regime completed a power transfer to his young son and rejoined disarmament talks with the US. With news of Kim’s death Monday, the impoverished country with a nuclear program plunged further into uncertainty, raising risks for the region. Read More: New York Post

 

Roughin’ it to roofin’ it

Sheryl-Ann Peters’ occupation was never televised. But unlike Occupy Wall Street protesters — who recently seized a vacant East New York home and moved in a homeless family — her housing takeover was entirely legal. Peters became a first-time homeowner last month thanks to an affordable-housing program for neighborhoods hardest hit by the housing crisis. The city bought the vacant, foreclosed, three-bedroom in St. Albans, Queens in August 2010 for $266,833 under a federal housing program. It added $177,190 worth of renovations, bringing the total worth to $444,023. Read More: Daily News

 

FDNY: Five Firefighters Injured In Brooklyn Brownstone Fire

Five city firefighters were hospitalized Monday while fighting a two-alarm fire in brooklyn. The New York City Fire Department says crews responded to a three-story brownstone located at 1102 Prospect Place in Crown Heights just after 9 a.m. Two firefighters were taken to Cornell Burn Center, one of whom suffered burns over 40 percent of his body. Three others were also injured. No civilians were hurt. The fire was under control in about an hour. Read More: NY1

 

Sources: Cornell Wins Bid For Roosevelt Island Tech Campus

Cornell University is about to become the winner of a competition to build a new science and engineering campus in the city, sources tell NY1. An official announcement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected later today. The city has offered free land on Roosevelt Island and up to $100 million worth of infrastructure. In a major sign of strength, the Cornell bid received a $350 million anonymous donation to help build the campus. Stanford University — another top contender — announced Friday it was pulling its bid. Columbia and NYU were also in the running. Read More: NY1

 

Brooklyn Man Awaits Arraignment For Burning Woman Alive

A Brooklyn man is expected to be arraigned today on charges he killed a woman by setting her on fire in her apartment building elevator. Jerome Issac, 47, is charged with murder and arson. Police say he turned himself in yesterday reeking of gasoline and saying he set a fire. Investigators believe he waited for Deloris Gillespie, 73, on the fifth floor of her building in Prospect Heights Saturday afternoon. Police say Isaac is the man seen in surveillance photos. When the elevator doors opened, they say Isaac sprayed Gillespie with a liquid accelerant, and kept spraying after she crouched down. They say he lit a Molotov cocktail and set Gillespie on fire, then tossed the flaming bottle in the elevator and kept spraying the victim. Read More: NY1

 

Haggerty sent to prison for 1 and 1/3 years for Bloomberg campaign cash theft

Disgraced political consultant John Haggerty — described by his own lawyer as broke, divorced and dishonored — was sentenced this morning to serve at least one and one-third years — and as much as four years — in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Mayor Bloomberg. The sentence was handed down by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel, and immediately enacted, with Haggerty being cuffed and led away to a back holding cell for processing. The sentence covers Haggerty’s October conviction for money laundering and second degree grand larceny. Read More: New York Post

Politics Aside: Is it time for Liu to step down?


| RHornak@queenscourier.com

As more information continues to spill out about the scandal surrounding John Liu’s fundraising practices, both in his 2009 campaign for comptroller and his current effort to run for mayor, it is becoming clear that his ability to effectively do his job is in serious jeopardy.  That would be the case for anyone in this circumstance, but for Liu, who has never taken his job as defender of the public purse seriously, and instead has only been an advocate for the interests of Big Labor, it is time to resign.

It started last month with a New York Times investigation into some of Liu’s donors, many of whom turned out to either not exist or claim to have never contributed to him. Liu has also neglected to report bundlers – supporters who collect donations on behalf of the campaign from their friends and associates – as is required by law.

These would be serious allegations against any candidate. However, with New York City’s extremely generous program of matching funds, with six dollars of taxpayer money given to candidates for every dollar they raise (the match caps at the first $175 from each donor), this is a much bigger problem, with the implication that Liu’s campaign conspired to commit fraud in order to steal from the taxpayers.

Worse still, many of the irregularities the Times exposed are with Chinese companies from Queens, some who are city contractors where the comptroller has oversight on their agreements. In fact, many of the details surrounding these donations appear shady, from business addresses that don’t exist to contributors who admit their boss made the contributions on their behalf at a company fundraising event for Liu. In most cases, the amounts given were $800 per person.

There appear to be too many cases where the fact patterns are the same for this to be a coincidence or for it all to be the doings of these individual business owners. Short of someone discovering a “how-to” manual for campaign finance evasion, it seems clear that the campaign was complicit in these activities. At the very least, major alarm bells should have gone off with campaign fundraisers (were they truly unaware) that something irregular was going on and an internal investigation should be held before accepting these bogus contributions.

Now one bundler has been arrested, another is being closely scrutinized, and ties to already jailed finance cheat Norman Hsu have been uncovered. But not only is Liu not showing any shame, he claims to be still running for mayor, in spite of these transgressions. He clearly thinks his close relationship with Big Labor bosses, who pumped over $180,000 into his 2009 campaign, will bail him out. If the current investigation into Liu doesn’t sink his mayoral ambitions, let’s hope the people of the city of New York will.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. 

Queens GOP leadership in question


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With the Queens political world already rattled, a storm has begun brewing on the horizon of the borough’s Republican Party.

Two organizational meetings were held on September 28, during which two different men claim to have been elected Queens County Republican GOP leader.

According to Robert Hornak, spokesperson for the Queens Republican Party, current chair Phil Ragusa was re-elected, receiving the support of every voter who attended his meeting – amounting to 62 percent of the total voting strength.
Former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene also claims he was elected at a meeting called by Bart Haggerty, who works for Councilmember Eric Ulrich, which was held on the same date and time as Ragusa’s gathering.

Hornak says that GOP Chair Ed Cox called to congratulate Ragusa on September 29, although Ognibene claims he received a similar phone call from Cox.

“Obviously this is an internal political dispute,” said Ognibene. “I believe I am the one that has been elected, and we submitted our certification of the election to the Board of Elections.”

The GOP leader is chosen by county committee members – elected officials in local parties – who frequently have state committee members hold proxy votes for them. In the September 13 Primary, the two party factions battled for a number of state committee member positions.

There were recent published reports that Ognibene would oppose Ragusa for GOP leader, although Hornak does not believe the challenge to be a legitimate one.

“We knew we were going to win, so they held another meeting to pretend they wouldn’t lose,” said Hornak. “They held a competing meeting without authorization. Bart Haggerty sent out a fraudulent notice saying he was the chair and called a meeting. Only the official chairman can call a meeting. This is all just nonsense to confuse people because they have lost.”

Ragusa’s campaign filed a restraining order that demanded the cancellation of the opposing meeting – a demand Haggerty and Ognibene ignored.

“They tried to take us to court today and tried to stop our meeting last night and couldn’t,” Ognibene said. “I guess we will just have to proceed and I’m sure there may be legal challenges. We were in court on September 29 and we will have to go to court on October 4.”

Ognibene says he is proceeding as if he was elected and will perform all the requirements of the GOP leader until a resolution is reached. He believes that Ragusa has been ineffective and has not done enough to advance the success of the borough’s Republican Party.

“Dealing with Mr. Ragusa is impossible,” said Ognibene. “They haven’t done anything and they haven’t supported any candidates. They are into self-aggrandizement instead of helping the Republican Party. He has done nothing to move the Republican Party forward. We have done it ourselves in southwest Queens.”

Ragusa says his opponent’s accusations are unjustified and unsupported, and that Ognibene’s interest in the position is for his own personal gain.

“We’ve run Bob Turner, Jane Deacy and even Ognibene himself,” said Ragusa. “Everyone that ran with the Republican designation ran because of us. In my four-and-a-half years we’ve run more candidates than they did in the last 10 years. We have done everything a party is supposed to do. I think these are blind accusations. I haven’t seen Mr. Ognibene at a county event since I’ve been chairman. He doesn’t do anything to support the county. I think he spends most of his time on a golf course.”

If the current hearing does not settle the dispute between the party’s two factions, Ragusa says his campaign will file a separate action to invalidate Ognebene’s filing with the Board of Elections.