Edited by: TJVNews.com
As corruption continues to be unearthed in practically every facet of business, politics, sports and entertainment, the age old method of trying to elicit favors from elected officials by greasing their palms is one that remains steadfast.
According to a recent report in the New York Times, on Friday an indictment was unsealed by Manhattan federal prosecutors in which a real estate developer was charged with plotting to hide contributions to a candidate in this year’s New York City comptroller’s race. These concealed contributions were made in a bid to get as much public financing for the candidate as possible.
The Manhattan developer in question, Gerald Migdol had, according to the NYT report organized a litany of donations to be made to the candidate’s campaign in the names of people who had not authorized the payments as was read in the indictment.
While the candidate’s name does not appear in the indictment, the NY Times has reported that details of the case suggest that it is Brian A. Benjamin, who ran as a Democrat in the NY Comptroller’s race but failed to win.
Currently, he is the New York State lieutenant governor, working with Gov Kathy Hochul. The indictment does not say whether the candidate had any knowledge of the contribution scheme.
Early on Friday Migdol, 71, was arrested on charges of aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the NYT report. Prosecutors say that one of the donations that was made to the campaign was done in the name of a minor. The web site, The City reported a contribution of $250.00 was made in the name of Migdol’s 2-year-old grandson.
At his arraignment on Friday, Migdol was released on bond after pleading not guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan, as was reported by the New York Times. The report indicated that the wire fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In a statement released to the media, Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said: “Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy, and campaign finance regulations are one way communities seek to ensure everyone plays by the same rules. As alleged, Gerald Migdol and others tried to divert taxpayer dollars from New York City’s matching funds program to a particular candidate based on fraudulent campaign contributions. My office remains vigilant against such attempts to defraud the public.”
FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said: “Public programs, such as the one Migdol allegedly defrauded, exist to provide support for New Yorkers who want to represent their city in elections, but find themselves without the means to do so. Illegally subverting the requirements to be eligible for these funds is detrimental to our ability to hold a free and fair election and is a federal offense.”
Acting DOI Commissioner Daniel G. Cort said: “Obtaining fraudulent donations for a political candidate that will ultimately be used to secure matching funds undermines the fair and honest public financing of elections. DOI thanks its partners on this matter, the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Joel Cohen, an attorney representing Migdol told the NYT that his client had pleaded not guilty “and that’s appropriate.” He added: “That says what we need to say.”
Migdol’s real estate company known as the Migdol Organization did not comment when reached by the Times. Based in Harlem, the company owns and operates residential properties across New York City, according to the NYT report.
As to Lt Governor Brian Benjamin, statement was issued by a spokesman for Benjamin’s comptroller campaign that said, “neither Lieutenant Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities.”
The NYT reported that the spokesman also said in the statement that “as soon as the campaign discovered that these contributions were improperly sourced, they donated them to the campaign finance board.”
Benjamin was chosen to be Hochul’s lieutenant governor in August.
The website of the Migdol Organization makes it clear that the Migdol family has been supporting Democratic candidates for many years. The site includes photos of family members with Benjamin and other politicians.
Gerald Migdol, contributed to Benjamin’s campaign under their own names, campaign finance records show.