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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Federal Agents "welcomed" by NY Lawmaker

Prosecutors subpoena Michael Spano
The Journal News by Timothy O'Connor and Glenn Blain - May 10, 2008

YONKERS - Federal prosecutors investigating the Yonkers City Council's handling of the controversial Ridge Hill development have issued a grand jury subpoena to Assemblyman Michael Spano. Two federal agents visited Spano on Thursday at his office and asked him about his dealings with Ridge Hill as well as powerbroker Albert Pirro, the estranged husband of former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and a one-time lobbyist for the $630 million project. "I welcome their visit," Spano said of the federal agents last night, "and I wouldn't need a subpoena to talk to them."

The subpoena marks the latest event in what has been a flurry of recent activity in the federal probe launched in March 2007, when federal prosecutors demanded all council records dating to the time the proposed development came before the seven-member City Council in January 2004. Federal prosecutors issued two rounds of subpoenas in February and March to City Council members, seeking records connected directly to Ridge Hill and Forest City Ratner, the project developer. The project was approved in July 2006, when Councilwoman Sandy Annabi cast the deciding vote in favor after having previously voted against project. Federal prosecutors asked for Annabi's financial disclosure form from 2006 and all of her e-mails from 2004 until March 2008 in a subpoena issued March 5. Annabi's lawyer, Murray Richman, met with federal prosecutors Thursday. A source familiar with the investigation said Annabi has been told she faces possible indictment on mortgage fraud charges.

Spano's subpoena orders him to appear before a federal grand jury in White Plains on May 20. After he left the Assembly in 2004, Spano worked for the Patricia Lynch Associates lobbying firm, which has Forest City Ratner as a client. He said he was asked in 2005, because of his knowledge of Yonkers, to speak to city officials to gauge their views and objections to the project. He said he spoke to council members Annabi, Dee Barbato and John Murtagh. His dealings were "strictly informational," he said. He did not lobby them, he said, but just relayed the information to his firm.

"No one at any time did anything inappropriate that I am aware of," Spano said. The probe has focused on lobbying efforts of council members on behalf of the project. One subpoena sought Councilwoman Patricia McDow's e-mail correspondence with Melvin Lowe, whom council members described as a consultant for the developer. In addition, federal prosecutors asked council members about Albert Pirro's role in the project when they interviewed them in February and March. Pirro could not be reached last night for comment.

Prosecutors also asked council members about Annabi and former Yonkers Republican Party Chairman Zehy Jereis. FBI agents served a subpoena on the city in March 2007 seeking all of Jereis' financial records. Jereis arranged a meeting between Murtagh, an opponent of the project, and the developer on July 11, 2006, to make a last-ditch effort to sway Murtagh, the councilman told The Journal News this week. That meeting came after Annabi had already announced her decision to change her vote, thus ensuring approval of the project. Murtagh said that in the meeting Jereis took the lead in trying to persuade him to go along with the project. Reach Timothy O'Connor at or 914-694-3523.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the more Yonkers changes the more it is the same! How a putz like Zehy 'Jerky' Jereis becomes a party chairman, Oh, I forgot about Uncle Nicky Spano. Nicky should've stated in the oil business he would have been better off, if you know what I mean. All I can say is it's about time! Have fun guys! Heard that somebody made a whole lot of tape recordings. Again, have fun guys!

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