The New York Times by BENJAMIN WEISER - May 25, 2010
Efrain González Jr., a once-powerful Bronx politician convicted of corruption, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday by a federal judge who called his story “an American tragedy.” Mr. González, 62, who was in the New York State Senate for nearly two decades, pleaded guilty a year ago to charges of conspiracy and fraud. Prosecutors said he had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from nonprofit groups to cover personal expenses. On Tuesday, the judge, William H. Pauley III of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said that while Mr. González had “undoubtedly performed some good and generous acts,” he had “brought public disgrace onto himself and the New York State Senate.” Mr. González sat quietly beside his lawyer during the proceeding, at times smiling at supporters in the packed spectator section. He said only a few words, telling the judge he wanted to apologize to “my family, my friends and to my communities.” Mr. González, who is free on bond, was ordered to surrender to prison authorities by June 30. He was also ordered to forfeit more than $700,000 as proceeds of his crimes, prosecutors said.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. González would have “years to contemplate his betrayal of the people he was elected to represent.” Rose Gill Hearn, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, called the sentence “a just result.” Prosecutors had sought a term of 11 to 14 years; Mr. González’s lawyer asked for 3 years. The sentencing came after a tortured legal battle in which Mr. González, after admitting guilt, sought to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he wanted to go to trial. In a sworn affidavit, he claimed that a lawyer had pressured him into pleading guilty, and that he also felt pressured by the judge when he admitted guilt in court. Prosecutors described his affidavit as “a near-total fabrication.” Judge Pauley, in refusing last month to allow him to withdraw his plea, called his claims of being pressured “preposterous.”
On Tuesday, Mr. González’s current lawyer, Lance Croffoot-Suede, described his client’s rise from grocery store stock clerk to founder of a security business and, in 1989, to state senator. “It is an American story,” Mr. Croffoot-Suede said. “It is a story of incredible grit, determination, success despite the odds.” He cited the two-year sentence recently imposed on the former Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, in a corruption case as another reason for leniency. The prosecutor, Michael Levy, said Mr. González’s case “has nothing to do with Senator Bruno’s case,” and he suggested Mr. González was arguing that senators should “get a break.” “The defense talks about how his story is an American story, and sadly that’s all too true,” Mr. Levy said. “It’s an American crime story, and an American corruption story, your honor, and it’s one that does get played out over and over again.” Prosecutors had said Mr. González used his position as a state senator to favor a nonprofit group called Pathways for Youth with about $200,000 in state grants, known as member items. They said Pathways directed more than $400,000 to another nonprofit group, the West Bronx Neighborhood Association, which Mr. González founded, and which also solicited money from individual and corporate donors. Prosecutors said that Mr. González misappropriated more than $500,000 from West Bronx to pay expenses like membership fees in a vacation club in the Dominican Republic, rent for a luxury apartment there, jewelry, Yankees tickets and college tuition for his daughter. They called the group a “phony charity” and said Mr. González had used it as “his personal piggy bank.” Judge Pauley noted that Mr. González had neither accepted responsibility for his crimes nor shown any remorse. “You undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity and altruism of their elected officials,” he said.
Ex-state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez gets 7 years for corruption scheme
The New York Post by BRUCE GOLDING - May 25, 2010
Crooked ex-pol Efrain Gonzalez Jr. was slapped with a seven-year prison term today by a judge who slammed him for failing to show any remorse for the "venal acts" of looting two charities in a pork-barrel corruption scheme. Manhattan federal Judge William Pauley III rejected defense arguments that the former Bronx Democratic state senator deserved the same sort of leniency shown onetime Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who got just two years for peddling his influence through a private consulting firm. "You deprived your constituents of the scarce resources that could be allocated to help those in need," said the judge, who also ordered Gonzalez to forfeit nearly $738,000 netted by his five-year scam. The portly 62-year-old -- who blew the cash on luxuries including an upstate vacation home and an apartment in the Dominican Republic -- rolled his eyes after being made to stand up and accept his punishment. In a brief statement, the disgraced ex-lawmaker said only: "Your Honor, I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my family, my friends and my communities. Thank you." Afterward, Gonzalez -- who in February blamed his former attorney for making him plead guilty -- refused to speak to reporters in English, but insisted in Spanish that he wanted a trial to prove his innocence. "We Hispanics, we have to unite. It's not fair what they're doing to us. I feel like an illegal immigrant," he said, according to a Spanish-speaking observer. Prosecutor Michael Levy argued in court for up to 14 years in the slammer for Gonzales, saying he "continues to deny that he has done anything wrong," and wanted a "Senatorial discount" for his crimes.
Ex-Bronx state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez latest in string of convicted politicians
The New York Daily News by Bob Kappstatter and Greg B. Smith - May 27, 2010
This week's sentencing of ex-Bronx state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez was the latest in a string of convictions involving corrupt politicians not only in the Bronx but across the city - with more investigations underway. Gonzalez, a Democrat, was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in federal prison after his guilty plea to stealing funding from a Bronx nonprofit. His misdeeds led to an expanding investigation of politicians' misuse of nonprofits that spread from Albany to City Hall, investigators say. The probe began in 2006 after the city Department of Investigation, examining the nonprofit Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, discovered Gonzalez siphoning money out of a related nonprofit he'd funded with taxpayer dollars. In late 2006, DOI formed a special unit to look at dozens of such groups with ties to politicians. What they discovered was shocking: politicians and their cronies using nonprofits as piggy banks to fly to exotic destinations, buy clothes, eat at top-notch restaurants and attend Yankees games. Soon the investigation revealed the City Council was parking taxpayer funds in fictional nonprofits, while some members were steering it to nonprofits that employed relatives.
To date ex-City Councilman Miguel Martinez and two aides to ex-City Councilman Kendall Stewart have pleaded guilty to corruption charges, while current Bronx City Councilman Larry Seabrook is under indictment for allegedly funneling more than $500,000 in city monies to shaky Bronx nonrofits, with his girlfriend and relatives on their payrolls. Highlighted among the charges was Seabrook allegedly doctoring a $7 bill for a bagel and soda into a $177 reimbursable expense. Among those under investigation are Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), along with former Rep. Floyd Flake, state Senate President Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx), Assemblyman Peter Rivera (D-Bronx), Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. Former state Controller Alan Hevesi is being eyed in a "pay-to-play" scandal unrelated to the crime for which he has already been convicted. Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, nephew of Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, has pleaded guilty to milking a nonprofit linked to the Arroyo family's South Bronx fiefdom, including flying Arroyo and her mother, Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, to Caribbean locales. Meanwhile, the city, state and federal investigations into crooked politicians continue. firstname.lastname@example.org