Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Two State Legislators Charged With Corruption for 'Unholy Alliance'
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. are among eight people facing public corruption charges for what federal prosecutors in Manhattan call a wide-ranging bribery scheme based on "an unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists and businessmen."
A criminal complaint alleges that Kruger and Boyland — both Brooklyn Democrats — accepted bribes totaling more than $1 million. Specifically, prosecutors said Kruger was paid by prominent lobbyist Richard Lipsky, a real estate developer and a healthcare consultant, in exchange for political favors.
Kruger, who has been a member of the state senate since 1994, allegedly routed his bribe payments through two shell companies set up by a personal friend who has also been charged.
Prosecutors said Lipsky paid Kruger $252,000 for his help in directing millions of dollars of state funds to the lobbyist's key clients and pushing legislation for them. For example, prosecutors say Kruger co-sponsored a beer bill for the lobbyist's beverage-distributing clients and wrote to a federal judge to oppose a lawsuit that would hurt another client of Lipsky's.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said FBI agents who searched Lipsky's home found more than $100,000 in cash.
The complaint also accuses Kruger of accepting $472,000 to help real estate developer Aaron Malinsky push projects. Kruger allegedly helped Malinsky launch a department store by appearing on his behalf at a New York City Economic Development Corporation hearing. Prosecutors also say that Solomon Kalish, a health care consultant, routed $197,005 to Kruger in exchange for the senator's help in a hospital acquisition deal.
Assemblyman Boyland is accused of accepting more than $177,000 from the CEO of the MediSys Health Network, David Rosen, for "no-show" consulting services. In return, Boyland allegedly asked the Speaker of the Assembly to allocate millions of dollars to MediSys.
Bharara said Kruger and Boyland are only the latest in a long line of state politicians who have run into trouble with the law.
"Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call. Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button," said Bharara. "When prosecutors charge politicians, it should not feel like a scene from 'Groundhog Day.' And yet, it does."
Other state officials charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan include Senator Vincent Leibell, Senator Hiram Monserrate, Senator Efrain Gonzalez, Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin and Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a written statement that the arrests "spotlight the failings of New York State government and highlight the urgent need for the legislature to pass comprehensive ethics reform - now." He reiterated his plan to push for ethics legislation in Albany.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver chimed in with his support of ethics reform.
"The actions allegedly committed by two members of the Legislature, if true, are deplorable and as insulting to our citizens as they are to the hardworking men and women of the Legislature, who serve this state with integrity and with dedication," said Silver in a written statement.
Kruger, Boyland and the other defendants are facing conspiracy and money laundering charges, each carrying a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Kruger's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, called his client "a dedicated, honest public servant" in a written statement. "He obviously is saddened by the filing of these charges but intends to vigorously defend himself in a courtroom where he expects to be fully vindicated," he said.
Boyland's office has not returned a request for comment.