Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seminerio Resigns, Enters Guilty Plea

By Patricia Adams

Rumors swirled around the chamber of the New York State Assembly on Monday according to members who say they were anticipating the resignation of colleague Anthony Seminerio.

Seminerio delivered a brief resignation letter addressed to Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, which marked the close of the Assembly session for the summer. “Please accept this as my letter of resignation from my assembly seat, 38th District, effective June 23, 2009. It has been my honor and a distinct privilege to have served in the legislature for the last thirty years.” The letter was signed “Sincerely, Anthony Seminerio”.

Colleagues in the state Assembly said they were not surprised by the resignation given the surrounding circumstances, but were none the less saddened. “I have known the Seminerio family for many years,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer who has served in the legislature with Seminerio for the last 20 years. “Tony and his wife, Catherine, have 3 outstanding children, and many grandchildren. They are all active members of the community who work tirelessly on behalf of others. My prayers are with the Seminerio Family during these difficult times.

According to published reports in the Albany Times Union, Seminerio’s attorney Pery Krinsky spoke on behalf of his client. “Mr. Seminerio regrets the pain he has caused to his family, his colleagues and to his former constituents whom he served for more than three decades."

On Wednesday Krinsky entered a guilty plea for the disgraced pol that faces between five months and 15 years in prison, in addition to tens of thousands of dollars in fines, when he is sentenced on October 20th.

The indictment, which followed an investigation by the U.S. Attorneys Office in Manhattan, charges that Seminerio received “a stream of corrupt payments,” from 1999 to 2008. The now 74-year-old state lawmaker is alleged to have sold his influence in Albany and collected about $1 million from clients.

Seminerio’s troubles began back in September when the indictment was first handed down. Charged with brokering favors to entities with business before the state, Seminerio was presumed to be the operator of a sham consulting company.

But in March of this year, an additional charge of extortion was added by the feds because, they say, Seminerio threatened to squash legislation for a nonprofit executive if he refused to utilize the “consulting” services and hire him. The threatened Queens nonprofit group was heavily dependant on state financing and paid Seminerio a $700-per-month fee for approximately two years.

Also listed in the indictment, is a payment of more than $300,000 from an unidentified New York City hospital and $25,000 from an undercover agent who approached the lawmaker with a request for access to his colleagues in connection with legislation concerning the privatization of the state’s probation system.

Seminerio had allegedly been charging the agent a $5,000 per month fee and complained when he did not receive timely payments for months gone by.

Seminerio was elected to the NYS Assembly a total of 16 times. Prior to the Assembly, he spent 15 years as a corrections officer and has amassed about 47 years of state pension credits.

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