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Former State Comptroller Pleads Guilty to Felony in 'Pay-to-Play' Pension Fund Scheme

Thursday, October 07, 2010

WNYC

The former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi pleaded guilty Thursday morning to taking nearly $1 million in kickbacks, as part of a massive pension fund scandal.

Hevesi, who stepped down in 2006 after pleading guilty to an unrelated felony, stood in a courtroom and rattled off a lengthy explanation of how two of his closest confidants took money from people seeking to land business with the state's multi-billion dollar pension fund, of which Hevesi was the sole trustee.

Drinking from a bottle of Poland Spring water and dressed in a dark suit, Hevesi pleaded guilty to one class E felony and was released on his own recognizance. It was a dazzling fall for Hevesi, who had also served as the New York City comptroller and spent decades as an Assemblyman in the state legislature, where he was considered a highly academic and ethical statesman.

On Thursday, Hevesi shattered those notions, admitting he took trips to Israel and California paid for by those seeking business with the pension fund, and that the cost of those trips were hidden from public watchdogs.

The case is the capstone in the four-year tenure of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is campaigning for governor on a promise of sweeping corruption out of the state's capital. 

The case has also ensnared major figures in the Democratic party, including fundraiser Steven Rattner, whose wife once served as the national finance chair for the Democratic National Committee. The Wall Street Journal reported that Rattner, who served as President Obama's car czar, was granted immunity from criminal charges in exchange for his cooperation with Cuomo's office. When asked by WNYC last week, Cuomo declined to comment on the "ongoing investigation." 

Hevesi also pointed a finger at his one-time political consultant Hank Morris, for arranging the kickbacks and soliciting campaign contributions from money managers. Morris has maintained his innocence throughout the three-year investigation. 

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