Albany, NY – New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, whose seven months in that role was overshadowed by investigations into a previous campaign, was arrested Tuesday in connection with a federal corruption probe.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Benjamin was arrested on charges of bribery, honest services wire fraud and tampering with records.
Benjamin, a former state senator from Harlem, had joined Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration in September, chosen by her to take up her old post a few weeks after taking over as governor following the former governor’s resignation. Andrew Cuomo on sexual grounds. allegations of harassment.
But just over two months later, a real estate developer who directed campaign contributions to Benjamin’s failed bid for New York City comptroller has been indicted.
Federal authorities have charged Gerald Migdol, a New York City attorney and real estate developer, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by illegally donating to Benjamin’s campaign.
In an unsealed indictment on Tuesday, Benjamin was accused of participating in a scheme to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin agreeing to use his influence as a senator. of state to obtain a grant of $50,000 of public funds for a non-profit organization. the developer controlled.
The indictment says the program ran from 2019 to 2021.
The indictment says Benjamin and others acting under his direction or on his behalf also engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up the scheme.
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.
Prosecutors had not previously brought charges against Benjamin, and his campaign said at the time of Migdol’s arrest that it lost any inappropriate donations as soon as it was discovered.
More recently, reports have surfaced that subpoenas were issued to Benjamin regarding financial issues even before Hochul selected him as lieutenant governor.
Although she said she was unaware of the subpoenas at the time, Hochul proclaimed his support for Benjamin, and he said he told state police at the time. during the verification process.
“I have the utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said at a news conference Thursday. “This is an independent investigation linked to other people and he is cooperating fully. He is my running mate.
“In her first major decision as governor, Kathy Hochul chose a filthy politician to serve as her partner in government and running mate. Brian Benjamin’s shady deals and corruption were well documented, but Hochul turned a blind eye and put him a hair’s breadth away from the governorship,” Republican state chairman Nick Langworthy said in a prepared statement. .
Benjamin was the state’s second black lieutenant governor. During his career in the state legislature, the Democrat has focused on criminal justice reform and affordable housing. His district included most of central Harlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, and has worked as an affordable housing developer.