Federal Judge Jed Rakoff – taking into account Kruger’s “extraordinary good deeds” as a public servant throughout his nearly 18-year political career – gave the former chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee two years less than the minimum of nine years he had been facing. Kruger had admitted that he accepted nearly half a million dollars in bribes from a range of business people in exchange for pushing legislation that would bring them favorable business results.
“I am broken, destroyed and disgraced,” the ex-Senator stated prior to his sentencing. “I have no one else to blame.”
“This will haunt me for the rest of my life,” he added.
The disgraced Brooklyn official resigned months ago from the state Senate seat he held since 1994. Kruger pled guilty in December to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and two counts of bribery. The charges were detailed in a 53-page criminal complaint brought by federal prosecutors, wherein Kruger, Brooklyn Assemblyman William Boyland, lobbyist Richard Lipsky, real estate developer Aaron Malinsky and hospital consultant Solomon Kalish were alleged to have participated in bribery schemes.
According to the complaint, Kruger received money from Lipsky to work on behalf of his clients’ interests.
Prosecutors said Kruger accepted bribes from hospitals that were funneled through Solomon Kalish, a friend and partner. According to the complaint, in 2009, Senator Kruger took graft money from Lipsky and worked against a bill in the state senate expanding the reach of recycling laws, which was opposed by beverage distributors for whom Lipsky lobbied. The complaint also accused Kruger of accepting bribes to obtain state money for Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, Queens, and for his work in opposing a big box store such as Walmart in Brooklyn. He was also accused of channeling $500,000 in state funds to one of Lipsky’s clients.
According to the complaint, then-Senator Kruger accepted bribes from a real estate developer linked to Lipsky – not named but easily recognized as Forest City Ratner – to obtain $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, $2 million for a retail development in Mill Basin and $4 million for the renovation of the skating rink in Prospect Park. Having amassed at least one million dollars in bribes in return for political favors, Kruger used the ill-gotten gains to finance an opulent lifestyle including the purchase of a Bentley Arnage and a $2 million waterfront home in Mill Basin.
Kruger was a powerful Democratic leader who represented the neighborhoods of Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin and Midwood in the New York State Senate for sixteen years. United States Attorney Preet Bharara said at the time of the arrests of Kruger and his fellow defendants that they represented a “broad-based bribery racket,” and he expressed exasperation over the unrelenting corruption in Albany, saying lawmakers did not appear to learn from past incidents.
“Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call,” Bharara said. “Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button.”
Beyond the accusations of betrayal of the public trust and official malfeasance, a maelstrom of personal drama swirled around then-Senator Kruger’s alleged use of the kickback money.
The web of intrigue includes Kruger’s association with the Turano family of Mill Basin. While Kruger lists his official residence as his sister’s home on Avenue L in Mill Basin, he has resided with the Turanos at their 7,000 square foot home, which has been described as ostentatious, and Kruger was often publicly seen in the company of Dorothy Turano, 73, whose two sons, Michael S. Turano, 49, a gynecologist, and Gerard I. Turano, 47, live with her. While friends described Mr. Kruger and Mrs. Turano as “a couple,” Kruger was actually close to Michael Turano, and they forged a relationship in which they “supported and relied on one another,” according to the complaint.
The complaint stated that Michael Turano was involved in establishing shell companies to obfuscate the bribes that Kruger had been taking and later used the money to finance the Bentley automobile, to pay credit bills and make mortgage payments on the house. As a result, Turano was also charged in the criminal conspiracy. Rumors have proliferated that Senator Kruger and Turano were involved in an intimate relationship. Despite his denials that he is gay, Kruger came under intense scrutiny by gay rights activists who asserted that he is “closeted.” They severely criticized the then-Senator for his 2009 vote against a Senate bill legalizing same-gender marriage, and even staged loud protests against his position on this issue outside the Turano home and the home of Kruger’s sister.