New York state lawmakers indicted on bribery and money laundering charges

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N.Y. State Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland surrendered to authorities on Thursday, after being charged for allegedly selling their influence to hospitals, real estate developers and lobbyists.

N.Y. Sen. Carl Kruger allegedly took over $1 million to grant political favors.

Prosecutors said that Kruger, a longtime Brooklyn Democrat, received over $1 million in bribes since 2006. Much of his illegal activities were connected to prominent Albany lobbyist Richard Lipsky, with whom he shared fees, and then took “the very official acts in favor of which Lipsky had been paid to lobby.”

In one instance, Kruger helped steer $500,000 in taxpayer monies to one of Lipsky’s clients.

The court documents claim that Kruger regularly worked with Lipsky to ensure that his clients received favorable treatment on issues that required government approval. Kruger sought to conceal the bribes and kickbacks, passing them through a bogus company called Adex Management, and then further through a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development.

Olympian was controlled by Dr. Michael Turano, the son of Kruger’s close friend Dorothy Turano, a local community board director.


Boyland, a four-term Democrat, was hired as a “no-show employee” at Brookdale Hospital, which at the time, was seeking approval in Albany for its expansion plans. Boyland picked up $177,000 under the sham arrangement.

Besides the lawmakers, several others were indicted in illegal schemes. David P. Rosen, of Medisys Health Systems, who gave Boyland the “no-show” job; hospital executives Robert Aquino and Solomon Kalish; real estate developer Aaron Malinsky and Dr. Turano.

The 53-page complaint detailed the FBI’s investigation which included bugs on Kruger and Lipsky’s phones, recording months of conversations and regular surveillance.

The men were charged on various counts of bribery, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering.

Preet Bharara, of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said “Once again I am here to report, sadly, that the crisis of corruption continues in Albany.  Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman it should be a jarring wakeup call,” he added. “Instead, it seems like no matter how many times the alarm goes off Albany just hits the snooze button.”

Information from The New York Times

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N.J. county Democrat Party Chairman resigns following bribery and corruption charges

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Joseph Spicuzzo, a 30-year veteran of the county sheriff’s office and head of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization, turned himself in to law enforcement officials on Monday on charges of bribery and official misconduct.

While serving as County Sheriff, Spicuzzo, 65, allegedly demanded payments from individuals seeking appointments as sheriff’s investigators or for promotions within the department. Prosecutors said that Spicuzzo charged up to $25,000 per person and received at least $50,000 in total between 2007 and 2009. Those who refused to pay his demands were reportedly passed over for promotion.

Attorney General Paula Dow said that at least three investigators paid a “cash tribute” to Spicuzzo for their jobs. All are still employed, and prosecutors said they are not being targeted in the investigation.

In Dec. 2009, Gov. Chris Christie singled out Spicuzzo, a former Gov. John Corzine appointee to the Sports and Exposition Authority as “probably the most unqualified candidate for the Sports Authority you can find.”

The state Democratic Party Chairman, John Wisniewski, said “While Joe is entitled, under our constitution, to the presumption of innocence, for the good of his family, our system of government and the Democratic party, he ought to consider stepping aside from his roles as a Commissioner of the Sports & Exposition Authority and chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization.”

If convicted, Spicuzzo faces up to ten years in prison, and could lose his pension.

Star-Ledger

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Louisville councilwoman establishes summer grant program, hires 12 relatives

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Councilwoman Judy Green is set to appear in front of the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission on charges she used her government position to enrich her family through a youth summer jobs program.

Green secured $35,000 for the “Green Clean Team” summer jobs program, intended to hire underprivileged youth to clean up alleys, lots and parks. Green ran the program, including making decisions on whom to hire.


Of the total monies, Green used $3,850 to hire 12 of her relatives, and another $28,270 of the funds are unaccounted for.

A police investigation said “the process by which this grant was established, completed and documented lacks professionalism, appears very unethical, and raises questions to the criminal allegations but there is not enough to support any further criminal investigation or prosecution.”

The ethics complaint was filed against Green, a dentist, by former police officer Ray Barker Jr., who ran against her in last May’s Democratic primary election.

Green’s lawyer, Kent Wicker said in a prepared statement “the ethics ordinance requires the process to be confidential. Unfortunately the complainant, who lost the last two elections to Dr. Green, wants to continue that political fight in the media and in this forum. But Dr. Green will follow the law and have no comment on the ethics complaint until the process is over.”

Critics disagree the matter is a private one.

Although the chairman of the ethics committee, Jonathan Ricketts, confirmed the meetings would be held confidentially in executive session, a lawyer representing the Courier-Journal said the city’s ordinance is in violation of state law.

“The open meetings law exempts deliberations … not the hearing of evidence,” Fleischaker said. “So I do not think they are entitled to take evidence at a quasi-judicial proceeding in closed session. They are entitled to deliberate privately, but the hearing itself should be open to the public.”

Information from: Courier-Journal

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Minnesota governor proposes 13.95 percent state income tax, highest in the U.S.

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Vying for the top spot in how much states charge their residents in income taxes, newly-elected Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton proposed on Tuesday that the tax rate in Minnesota be raised from 7.85 percent to 10.95 percent for couples earning over $150,000 and single filers making over $85,000. In addition, a special 3 percent surcharge would be assessed for the next two years on those earning more than $500,000.

The new taxes were part of Dayton’s proposed two-year budget of $37 billion. The $2.9 billion that the added tax would generate in revenues would only partially offset the projected $6.2 billion budget deficit.

GOP leaders say that the increased tax would be the highest in the nation by far, and drive wealthy taxpayers from the state. The highest rate currently charged in any state is 11 percent, by Oregon, which does not have a state sales tax, and Hawaii.

Dayton’s budget proposes an increase in spending of 7.5 percent during the next two years, although Republicans said that the figure was closer to 22 percent after taking into account $2.3 billion in federal stimulus monies and $1.9 billion in delayed school payments, the previous governor, Tim Pawlenty, used to balance the state’s budget.

Dayton also proposed a state property tax on all homes valued at more than $1 million.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers said “This budget is detached from the reality that every other state has recognized.”

Pioneer Press

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North Miami mayor admits to handing out official police-like badges to “city volunteers”

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At a city council meeting Tuesday evening, North Miami Andre Pierre apologized to the audience for ordering 43 police-like badges, inscribed “Mayor’s Staff”, which cost taxpayers $4,151.

Last week, The Miami Herald first reported the story, in which Pierre claimed that he couldn’t remember how many he ordered, and how many he handed out. The trouble with the badges, is that the mayor’s staff consists of three person, all of whom he shares with city council members.

After the council meeting, Pierre said that he provided a badge to each of the staff members, and an undisclosed number to “city volunteers,” although he refused to mention any names. He also refused to answer questions why he ordered them in the first place.

Pierre bypassed the city manager when purchasing the badges, instead asking Police Chief, Stephen Johnson, to order them. The badges are similar to a law enforcement shield and feature the Florida state seal.

At the council meeting, Pierre repeated an earlier contention that the request should have not been mistaken as an order to purchase the badges. “I never gave him a command,” said Pierre.

Critics blasted Pierre for spending taxpayer monies on the badges, which might easily be mistaken for law enforcement shields. They say the badges could be used to obtain favors or intimidate citizens.

City Manager Russell Benford was not aware of the badges until contacted by the media last week. He said he’s asked Pierre to retrieve the badges.

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich sues cafeteria over olive mishap

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich has filed a lawsuit over a lunch-time incident, in which he ate a pita wrap sandwich in a House of Representatives cafeteria, which contained non-pitted olives. He is suing the four companies involved in running the cafeteria in the Longworth House Office Building for a total of $150,000.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is suing four companies involved in running a congressional cafeteria, over an accident involving an olive.

The court documents say that Kucinich ordered the vegetarian sandwich wrap “on or about” April 17, 2008 that was advertised as containing “pitted olives.” After biting into it, he realized that it “contained dangerous substances, namely an olive pit.”

After consuming the sandwich, Kucinich incurred “serious and permanent dental and oral injuries” which required “multiple surgical and dental procedures.”

The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 3, and claims that the congressman is entitled to damages for future dental and medical expenses and to compensate him for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment. He also accuses the four firms of breach of implied warranty.

The former mayor of Cleveland, Kucinich has represented Ohio’s 10th district in the House for eight terms.

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Mass. Attorney General to up focus on public corruption

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Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Wednesday she is creating a task force to focus on public corruption that has permeated the state’s political establishment.

Coakley says she intends to focus more on corruption in government by reorganizing her department.

The Democrat told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce she will split an existing fraud and corruption unit in her office and refocus its workers. One new unit will focus on financial crimes, the other on public corruption.

The focus comes after the bribery convictions of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. Turner was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison after U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock blasted what he termed the former councilor’s “ludicrously perjurious testimony” at trial.

Coakley told the business leaders attending the Chamber breakfast: “If we cannot ensure the integrity of our markets and of our government, then most of our efforts to rebuild our economy, at this stage, are undermined.”

Besides Wilkerson and Turner, former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi is also facing federal corruption charges, following criminal prosecutions against his two predecessors.

And Coakley herself is investigating allegations of fraudulent hiring practices within the state Probation Department, the Middlesex sheriff’s office and with Massachusetts Lottery advertising during last fall’s gubernatorial campaign by independent candidate Timothy Cahill.

Coakley has been accused of ignoring many corruption cases, especially involving her fellow Democrats who compose most of the state government, but she has said that in many cases, the federal government has better law enforcement tools to prosecute the crimes.

She also highlighted for her Chamber audience the more than 40 public corruption cases brought by her office – against members of both parties – and her focus on falsified training by EMTs seeking extra pay; false workers compensation and unemployment claims; and her successful recovery of more than $250 million during the past four years through Medicaid fraud prosecutions.

Coakley said both of the new units will be staffed with prosecutors trained in public corruption techniques, as well as the white-collar crime that will be targeted by the financial crimes unit.

The attorney general encouraged business leaders to cooperate with her efforts by turning in employees suspected of embezzlement, hacking and theft of company secrets.

“Sometimes it makes sense for you, in your businesses, to send a line to your employees, to send the message, that we do not take this lightly, we are not just going to write it off after we fire you – and, by the way, send you out in the world so you can go do it someplace else at another business,” she said.

Coakley kicked off her speech with a reference to the high-profile U.S. Senate race she lost a year ago to Republican Scott Brown. Noting she had been re-elected in November and sworn in last week, Coakley quipped that “twice now in the past year, the voters have said they want me to stay as attorney general.”

She also provoked murmurs as she repeatedly highlighted the good-citizenship theme highlighted in regular Citizens Bank television ads – as she stood in front of a Bank of America banner in recognition of its sponsorship of the breakfast.

Source: The Associated Press

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