Home Combined UPDATED: Benjamin pleads not guilty to federal charges; resigns as Lt. Gov.

UPDATED: Benjamin pleads not guilty to federal charges; resigns as Lt. Gov.

Brian Benjamin resigned his office as New York State Lieutenant Governor just hours after  being arrested on April 12 and pleading not guilty to charges in a federal indictment alleging that he had engaged in wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery and falsification of records.

Benjamin had surrendered to the FBI in Manhattan. The case has been assigned to U. S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.

Brian Benjamin speaking at the Harlem event.

The Business Journal reviewed a copy of the indictment, which says, in part, that Benjamin “participated in a scheme to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for BENJAMIN’s agreement to use, and actual use of, his official authority to obtain a $50,000 grant of state funds …  for a non-profit organization controlled by CC-1 (“Organization-1’). 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 purpose.” CC-1 is the individual Benjamin is alleged to have approached for the contributions and Organization-1 is the non-profit.

Benjamin is charged with:

  • one count of federal program bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison;
  • one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison;
  • one count of conspiracy to commit those offenses, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison;
  • and two counts of falsification of records, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, “As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns. By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns. My office and our partners at the FBI and DOI (New York City Department of Investigation) will continue to ensure that politicians who put themselves over the public interest will be prosecuted.”

FBI New York Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said, “Exploiting one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure donations to a political campaign, and engaging in activity to cover up the bribe, is illegal. As we allege today, Benjamin’s conduct in this scheme directly circumvents those procedures put in place to keep our systems fair.”

The indictment also accuses Benjamin of “engaging in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up his scheme, including by falsifying campaign donor forms, misleading municipal regulators and providing false information in vetting forms.”

The indictment outlined a number of meetings and events that it said took place from 2019 to 2021. It also alleged that Benjamin received a number of checks in varying amounts that included $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000.

Among the first to react to the news was Republican State Assemblyman Mike Lawler of Pearl River. Lawler said, “The arrest of Brian Benjamin is just the latest in a long string of arrests, scandals, ethics violations, harassment, and abuses of power.”

Republican Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt of New Windsor), said, “Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s arrest further demonstrates the extent to which corruption continues to pervade state government. Gov. Hochul and the State Legislature must act immediately to remove him from office.”

 

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