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New York Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin has surrendered to authorities after being indicted for his alleged participation in a bribery scheme to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for securing a $50,000 state grant.
The 5-count indictment, which is a result of an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, also asserts that Benjamin and others attempted to “cover-up” the scheme and engaged “in a series of lies and deception,” according to The New York Times.
Charges show that Benjamin conducted the scheme between 2019 and 2021 while he was a state senator and a candidate for state comptroller. He reportedly solicited campaign donations from a Harlem real estate developer named Gerald Migdol in exchange for appropriating state funds for the developer’s non-profit organization.
“In so doing, Benjamin abused his authority as a New York State senator, engaging in a bribery scheme using public funds for his own corrupt purposes,” prosecutors charged in the indictment. The real estate investor was busted on federal charges in November.
Migdol began turning state’s evidence after he was arrested on an indictment charging him with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and other crimes related to his alleged role in the fund-raising scheme, according to the New York Times.
Per the indictment, Benjamin falsified campaign donor forms. He also allegedly lied during vetting for the lieutenant governor position, claiming that he had never “directly exercised” his authority as an official “concerning a matter of a donor [he] directly solicited.”
Charges against the New York Democrat include bribery, conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, and falsification of records. Each of the offenses could get a maximum sentence of five to 20 years in prison.
Additionally, prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the funds involved in the scheme or “any other property of the defendant up to the value of the forfeitable property.”
Dude, even Illinois is like, “Yo, slow it down with the corruption.”
— Chris (@chriswithans) April 12, 2022
“Neither Lieutenant Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities,” his office proclaimed when the investigation began over the straw donations according to NBC News. “As soon as the campaign discovered that these contributions were improperly sourced, they donated them to the Campaign Finance Board, pursuant to guidance obtained from the CFB.”
The embarrassing development involving the second-in-command for the state could endanger the political aspirations of Gov. Kathy Hochul, who found herself taking over for disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo after he resigned due to numerous scandals.
And the corruption in New York continues!!
— Mike (@MikeKorwek) April 12, 2022
Even though there is no indication that Hochul was aware of Benjamin’s alleged criminal conduct, she took office last year promising to end an era of impropriety in Albany. Tapping Benjamin seven months ago was among her first major decisions as governor.
Benjamin has an Ivy League education and a great deal of his career was in banking and affordable housing development before he won a State Senate seat representing most of Harlem in 2017.
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