Tag Archives: corruption

Assemblyman Scarborough to plead guilty: reports


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Assemblyman William Scarborough is expected to plead guilty in a felony corruption case and step down from office after serving southeast Queens for two decades, according to published reports.

Scarborough was arrested in October for allegedly stealing campaign funds and collecting travel reimbursement checks through the voucher system, which legislators receive when they are in the state capital, even when he was not in Albany.

Following his arrest, Scarborough pleaded not guilty to an 11-count federal indictment, where he was accused of improperly claiming “per diem” expenses in excess of $40,000 for travel that didn’t take place.

The Queens pol is scheduled to plead guilty on May 7 to two felony federal corruption charges as part of a tentative deal, the Daily News reported. They will include one count of improperly receiving money from a program that receives federal funds, and one count of wire fraud.

His attorney filed a change-of-plea notice late Monday, according to the Albany Times Union, and at the same time, a notice was filed to give up the fight to have cellphone tower data thrown out as evidence in the case, arguing that it was illegally obtained. The data was reportedly used to pinpoint his whereabouts when he claimed to be in Albany.

Along with the guilty plea, Scarborough is expected to vacate the 29th Assembly District seat that he first assumed in 1995.

Scarborough is also facing a 23-count state indictment charging him with withdrawing and diverting over $40,000 from his campaign account to use for personal expenses.

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Malcolm Smith found guilty


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Former state Senator Malcolm Smith has been found guilty on all counts in a federal corruption trial where he was accused of trying to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot in the 2013 mayoral election, according to published reports.

An earlier attempt to prosecute Smith ended in June with a mistrial after it was revealed that the U.S. Attorney’s office failed to turn over recorded conversations to defense lawyers until the trial was already underway. Several jurors said that due to time constraints they could not serve on the jury long enough for the defense to process the new recordings.

After a retrial that began a month ago, jurors took a little more than four hours to deliberate before returning a guilty verdict, according to reports.

Once one of the most powerful elected officials in state government during his brief tenure as Senate president and later as a member of the breakaway Independent Democrats, Smith, who represented Jamaica, now faces up to 45 years in prison.

Also found guilty Thursday as an accomplice in the $200,000 bribery plot was former vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, Vincent Tabone. He faces a maximum of 45 years behind bars.

The two men were part of a plot to rig the Republican mayoral primary by bribing the party’s leaders in three counties to allow Smith, a Democrat, a place on the GOP ballot.

Under the state’s Wilson-Pikula law, Smith, a Democrat, would need the approval of three of the five county Republican Party leaders to cross party lines and run in a GOP primary. Smith had the backing of Queens Republicans, thanks to Tabone, and had the Bronx leader in his pocket, as well.

He never did secure a third county party’s support.

To raise the money for the bribes, Smith hatched a deal with a Rockland County developer. He promised to steer $500,000 in state funding to transportation projects that would boost the developer’s business in exchange for his help in securing the ballot line.

The developer, Moses Stern, turned government informant, helping to lead federal prosecutors to Smith, Tabone and a third defendant, former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran. Halloran was convicted in July for taking $20,000 in bribes for his help with Republican leaders.

Halloran faces sentencing next month in federal court in White Plains. Federal probation officials have recommended that he be sentenced to six-and-a-half to eight years in prison.

Smith had attempted to delay the start of his first trial until the end of his primary election in September, but was denied the request. His opponent in the race, Leroy Comrie, defeated Smith by a landslide.

After the verdict was announced, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara released a statement, calling the case against Smith “just one of many pockets of corruption this office has uncovered in New York, which has become the ‘show me the money’ state. It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law. This office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison.”

Smith is the latest in a long line of city and state elected officials who have been targeted by  prosecutors on corruption and ethics charges, including one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was arrested two weeks ago.

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Councilman Wills once again indicted on corruption charges


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

File photo

Councilman Ruben Wills is racking up quite a rap sheet.

The city councilman, who had already been indicted, was indicted again on Tuesday for charges alleging that he filed false financial disclosure reports. He pleaded not guilty.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli charged Wills with allegedly filing false documents about his finances to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board. Elected officials in New York City must file these documents for public scrutiny and to guard against any potential conflicts between their personal and city business.

“Submitting false documents to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board is a serious crime,” Schneiderman said.  “My office’s partnership with the comptroller is designed to combat corruption in the public sector, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the public trust is not undercut by public servants who are not truthful in their disclosures.”

Schneiderman and DiNapoli charged Wills with five counts of the class E felony of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. Schneiderman and DiNapoli claim that from 2011 to 2013 Wills purposely omitted certain financial dealings. If convicted, Wills faces up to four years in prison.

And the history between the state attorney and Wills goes back to 2014.

Back in May 2014, Wills, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges by Schneiderman for allegedly stealing public campaign funds and using the cash for a Louis Vuitton handbag and shopping sprees at Nordstrom, Century 21 and other locales. He’s also accused of taking a $33,000 member item from since-convicted former state Sen. Shirley Huntley for his fake charity but pocketing most of it. Those charges are pending.

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Assemblyman William Scarborough arrested


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Updated 3:32 p.m.

Assemblyman William Scarborough was arrested on Wednesday on state and federal corruption charges, officials said.

Scarborough, who has represented the 29th District in southeast Queens for two decades, was arrested for allegedly stealing campaign funds and collecting travel reimbursement checks through the voucher system, which each legislator gets when he or she is in the state capital, even when he was not there, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“The crimes Mr. Scarborough is accused of committing would represent a shameful breach of the trust his constituents placed in him,” Schneiderman said. “New Yorkers are repeatedly asked to have faith in our leaders, and every allegation of political corruption shatters that trust. Each time my office arrests a corrupt public official, it sends the message that there must be one set of rules for everyone and no one is above the law, no matter how powerful or well-connected.”

Scarborough pleaded not guilty to a 23-count state indictment accusing him of withdrawing and diverting over $40,000 from his campaign account to use for personal expenses and an 11-count federal indictment of him improperly claiming “per diem” expenses in excess of $40,000 for travel that didn’t take place, according to Schneiderman.

If convicted on all charges he faces up to 37 years in prison.

He was released on his own recognizance in both courts, but was forced to give up his passport, according to published reports. Reports also said he has no intention of withdrawing from his re-election bid this year.

In March, the FBI raided Scarborough’s office and home as part of this investigation. The agency seized “just about everything,” according to what Scarborough told reporters then.

The arrest on Wednesday came as part of a joint effort by the offices of Schneiderman, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian.

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Councilman Ruben Wills arrested on corruption charges


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Updated 2:25 p.m. 

Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday after a corruption investigation discovered he allegedly stole public campaign funds and state grant money.

The Queens politician, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, according to the indictment.

Jelani Mills, a relative who works for Wills, and allegedly helped him redirect some of the cash, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records.

Wills is accused of stealing from both the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

He is charged with redirecting $11,500 in matching funds he received from the CFB during his 2009 City Council campaign–with the help of Mills–to New York 4 Life, a nonprofit Wills started, and using the money for personal purchases, according to court documents. Wills allegedly bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag at Macy’s, among other items.

The councilman had been under investigation by the attorney general for $33,000 in state funds provided through a grant that was unaccounted for after it was given to New York 4 Life, according to published reports and the attorney general’s office.

Those funds were earmarked by former state Sen. Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as her chief of staff.

New York 4 Life signed a contract with OCFS to receive that money, promising to conduct four public service projects, officials said, but the nonprofit allegedly only came through on one program that cost about $14,000. Wills is accused of pocketing the remaining $19,000 and using it for political and personal expenses, including purchases at Nordstrom’s and Century 21.

Huntley was arrested in a unrelated case in August 2012 and later pleaded guilty for covering up money funneled through a nonprofit she helped establish. It was revealed last May that Huntley had secretly recorded the conversations of seven elected officials, including Wills, while she was still in office at the request of federal prosecutors.

“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a government that is ethical and responsible and that is the standard we’re seeking to uphold.”

Wills, who was first elected to the Council in a 2010 special election, has been prohibited from doling out member items, or city funds, to his district, the Queens delegation chair and City Council speaker’s office will now designate them for him, reports and a source said.

He has also agreed to give up his chairmanship of the Council’s subcommittee on drug abuse, according to published reports.

Wills, who did not enter a plea and was released without bail, said Wednesday he had no plans to resign, reports said.

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Sen. Malcolm Smith’s lawyer wants federal corruption trial delayed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

State Senator Malcolm Smith wants his federal corruption trial delayed, as he runs for re-election and awaits a judge’s decision to dismiss some charges, his lawyer said.

He and former Councilmember Dan Halloran will return to court Feb. 28.

The pair and four others were accused last April of conspiring with the city’s Republican Party leaders to allow Smith, a Democrat, to run for mayor as a Republican.

Federal prosecutors said Halloran negotiated payoffs and set up meetings between Smith and the county bosses, allegedly pocketing thousands in the process.

Lawyers for the two say the act is not considered bribery under New York state law.

A judge will soon decide on motions to throw out some of the charges, said Smith’s attorney, Gerald Shargel.

“It’s progressing in the normal course,” Shargel said.

Smith’s lawyer also wants the trial delayed until after this year’s Democratic primary to give the southeast Queens politician a fighting chance at re-election.

The primary is expected to take place in September, while the trial is scheduled to begin in June.

Two challengers, attorneys Clyde Vanel and Munir Avery, have already surfaced to unseat Smith.

“I don’t think that he would otherwise have a fair opportunity to present his position to his constituents,” Shargel said.

The lawyer plans to submit a written request to the court Feb. 7, he said.

Meanwhile, another co-defendant in the massive bribery scandal has pleaded guilty.

Joseph Desmaret, the former Spring Valley deputy mayor, confessed to accepting about $10,500 in cash bribes from an undercover FBI agent, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The 56-year-old pleaded guilty Jan. 29 in White Plains federal court and faces up to 40 years in prison. He is slated for sentencing May 22.

Former Bronx Republican chair Joseph “Jay” Savino pleaded guilty in connection to the case last November.

Other co-defendants, former Queens GOP vice chair Vincent Tabone and Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, say they are innocent.

 

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Queens District Leader Al Baldeo surrenders to FBI


| brennison@queenscourier.com

baldeo

Former city council candidate and current District Leader Al Baldeo turned himself in to the FBI today on charges of fraud and obstruction of justice.

Baldeo, 52, is accused of using fake donors to his campaign to receive matching funds from the city.  He is also charged with obstructing during the government’s investigation.

“As alleged, Queens District Leader Albert Baldeo was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances — including engaging in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws by funneling his own money through straw donors. Baldeo even allegedly used fear and intimidation to prevent others from exposing his conduct. As today’s charges demonstrate, we will not sit idly by and allow candidates for elected office to corrupt the electoral process or the administration of justice,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The charges stem from an unsuccessful run for the 28th District council seat in 2010, losing in the special election to Ruben Wills. He also ran for Council in 2005 and state Senate the following year.

The FBI alleges Baldeo provided money orders or cash to individuals to contribute in their own name.   After discovering he was under investigation, Baldeo instructed the straw donors to “provide false information to, or not cooperate with, the FBI agents who were investigating contributions to his campaign,” according to investigators.

Baldeo is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, one count of attempting to commit mail fraud, one count of conspiring to obstruct justice, and one count of obstruction of justice. Each count carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.