Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ex-Assemblyman Seminerio Sentenced to Six Years for Accepting Illegal Payments

By Conor Greene

Disgraced former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio has been sentenced to six years in prison for illegally accepting consulting fees from individuals and companies doing business with the state over the past decade.

Seminerio, 74, pleaded guilty last year to theft of honest services for accepting about $1 million from companies including Jamaica Hospital through a consulting firm he ran from his home. Last Thursday, he was sentenced to prison by a federal judge, despite pleas from his attorneys to grant him home confinement. He must repay $1 million.

“When you were elected, you were given a great privilege,” the Justice Naomi Reice Buchwald, told Seminerio while handing down his sentence. “You abused the trust placed in you... You decided to take a piece of the action.

Seminerio represented the 38th Assembly district for more than 30 years before resigning in disgrace last year after the consulting scheme came to light. When pleading guilty, Seminerio admitted to pulling strings in Albany for Jamaica Hospital while accepting more than $300,000 from the facility. In return, the hospital received state funding.

“I’ll be OK,” the fallen politician reportedly told friends and family as he exited the federal courtroom in Manhattan last week. When approached by reporters, he added: “I’m 74 years old. How much time have I left? I’ve been through enough, please. Be kind.”

Following Seminerio’s resignation last year, Democrat Mike Miller was victorious in a special election to represent the district, which includes Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Glendale and Ozone Park. “The criminal justice system has run its course, and as a result of his criminal conduct, Tony Seminerio now faces several years in prison and the forfeiture of $1 million,” said Miller in
a statement issued to The Forum.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D- Ozone Park), who has served in Albany for more than two decades, said the sentencing is the culmination of a long and painful investigation into the behavior of a former colleague. “I think he thought it wasa death sentence,” she said. “He is not young, and he’s not doing well, but the judge could have given him 14 years. The judge said it – he violated the public trust. It’s about integrity. People expect that we’re not doing anything illegal.”

The impact of Seminerio’s fall from power on the district includes problems with funding earmarked for various local non-profit and community groups that never material- ized, something both Miller and Pheffer touched on. “While the Seminerio case is closed, vital community groups continue to suffer as a result of his scandal,” said Miller. “The time has come for our community to move forward and focus on rebuilding these programs.”

Said Pheffer: “It seems that the district was upset about the delivery of member items and discretionary funding. There was money lost in the turnover. I think some groups were adversely affected by the loss of funding.”

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