Brian Benjamin resigns after arrest in campaign finance fraud case – NBC New York

New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin has resigned after turning himself in to authorities to face charges of campaign finance fraud in connection with an earlier campaign, Governor Kathy Hochul announced.

“I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. As the legal process unfolds, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor. New Yorkers deserve a absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue to work every day to deliver for them,” Hochul said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Following the announcement of his resignation, Benjamin’s attorneys, James D. Gatta and William Harrington, released a statement calling his actions “commendable — not criminal.”

“There has never been a federal case like this in America,” the statement said. B”rian supported a $50,000 grant to the Friends of Harlem Public School. Every dollar was intended to purchase supplies for Harlem public school students. There was nothing inappropriate about this grant . “

New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin turned himself in to authorities to face charges of campaign finance fraud in connection with an earlier campaign, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The statement continued: “After today’s charges, Brian will step down as Lieutenant Governor and suspend his campaign. He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable, not criminal.

He looks forward to the end of this case so that he can devote himself to public service again.”

Benjamin, a Democrat, has been charged with bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of documents in connection with an alleged scheme to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin’s agreement to to use his influence as a state senator to secure a $50,000 grant from the state. funds for a non-profit organization controlled by the developer.

Facing charges of bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsifying documents, Benjamin pleaded not guilty Tuesday in an initial appearance in Manhattan federal court. He was released and bail was set at $250,000.

The lieutenant governor appeared in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday afternoon and walked away without speaking to reporters.

New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin turned himself in to authorities to face charges of campaign finance fraud in connection with an earlier campaign, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

His arrest comes after reports that federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the FBI were investigating whether Benjamin knowingly engaged in a campaign finance fraud scheme. Subpoenas have been issued as part of the investigation, two sources familiar with the subpoenas said at the time.

The indictment says Benjamin, a former state senator from Harlem, and others acting under him or on his behalf also engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up the scheme. is extended from 2019 to 2021.

They falsified campaign donor forms, misled city regulators and provided false information in verification forms Benjamin submitted when he was being considered for lieutenant governor, according to the indictment. charge.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney and an FBI spokesperson both declined WNBC’s requests for comment regarding the Benjamin investigation. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​also did not respond to requests for comment.

Benjamin was named lieutenant governor by Governor Kathy Hochul in 2021, shortly after losing a primary bid for New York’s comptroller. He previously served as a New York State Senator for District 30, which includes Harlem, East Harlem (El Barrio), Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights and Morningside Heights.

The investigation into Benjamin came after the FBI arrested his fundraiser, Gerald Migdol, in November. He is charged with wire fraud in an alleged campaign fraud scheme related to Benjamin’s past fundraising.

A lawyer for Migdol did not respond to requests for comment.

After the indictment was announced, the New York City Campaign Finance Board said in a statement that no public funds were given to Benjamin’s campaign.

“BFC’s audit reviews identified potentially fraudulent contributions before issuing payments of public funds,” the BFC said. “These contributions were not matched with public funds, nor were they considered in the campaign qualifying for payments from public funds.”

Following confirmation that Benjamin was under investigation, the lieutenant governor’s office referred questions to its Nov. 19 press release issued at the time of Migdol’s arrest in which he said he was ready. to cooperate.

“Neither Lt. Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are accused of wrongdoing and they stand ready to cooperate fully with authorities,” he said. “As soon as the campaign discovered that these contributions came from inappropriate sources, they donated them to the Campaign Finance Council, in accordance with guidelines obtained from the BFC.”


NEW YORK POLITICAL SCANDALS

Benjamin’s arrest is just the latest scandal in New York politics.

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the state’s most powerful politicians for decades before he was ousted and sent to prison for corruption, has also fallen out of favor due to ‘a fault.

Silver, who died behind bars earlier this year, was at one time one of New York State’s three most powerful officials. He was assembly leader for more than two decades before his abrupt ousting in 2015 after corruption allegations emerged.

He was eventually convicted in a scheme that involved a type of illegal back scratching that has long plagued Albany. He supported legislation that benefited property developers he knew. In return, they referred the tax cases to a law firm that employed Silver, who then paid him a fee.

Additionally, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also faced a political scandal that led to his resignation amid sexual harassment allegations.

While Cuomo resigned last year, it appears he is considering a political comeback and considering the possibility of running for his old job just six months after stepping down amid sexual harassment allegations.

Cuomo gave a campaign-style speech in March to a friendly audience of about 100 in the Bronx, where he framed his fall from power as a “cancel culture” gone mad.

When asked after his speech if he would run for office, Cuomo told reporters he was “open to all options.” He also commented on a recent poll that showed him competitive in a hypothetical New York primary, saying he found the results “rewarding, but I never lived by the polls.”

Below is a list of other top New York City officials who have resigned or been sentenced to prison over scandal:

  • October 17, 1913 – In the history of the state, only one governor has been impeached. William Sulzer, the 39th governor of New York, held the seat for less than a year before being impeached after being accused of failing to report thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and mixing funds campaign with personal funds. He was convicted by a special tribunal and dismissed from his post on October 17, 1913.
  • December 22, 2006 –NYS Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigns and pleads guilty to felony charge of defrauding the government; subsequent charges result in a prison sentence.
  • March 12, 2008 – Governor Eliot Spitzer announces his resignation, effective March 17, after being caught in a prostitution scandal in Washington, DC. (His successor, David Paterson, had several scandals himself, including accusations of perjury, witness tampering, and even rumors of sex and drug escapades that were never proven, but they didn’t lead upon his resignation.)
  • July 18, 2008 – New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is stepping down from his Senate seat, after stepping down as Senate leader on June 24 amid federal corruption charges; later convicted on two counts. The United States Supreme Court overturned his conviction; a new trial resulted in an acquittal.
  • June 20, 2011 — Former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner — a rising Democratic Party star who served nearly 12 years in Congress — suffered a dramatic and sordid fall after posting a lewd photo of himself on Twitter in 2011 and resigning after the behavior came to light.
  • January 30, 2015 –NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is stepping down as Speaker, effective Feb. 2, following his arrest on federal bribery charges. Later that year, he was found guilty on seven counts. Although that conviction was overturned, he was convicted again at a later trial. He is currently in federal prison.
  • May 11, 2015 –Dean Skelos is stepping down as New York State Senate Majority Leader, a week after he was arrested on federal bribery charges along with his son. Later that year he was convicted, automatically losing his seat. An appeals court overturned his conviction, but he was found guilty again in a retrial. Last year he was released from prison to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest after testing positive for COVID.
  • May 7, 2018 – NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigns hours after The New Yorker published an article detailing allegations of physical abuse.

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