Hiram Monserrate

Monserrate Sentenced To 2 Years Behind Bars For Fraud (Updated)

And so ends – at least in the short term – the long and twisted tale of Hiram Monserrate.

The former state senator and New York City councilman will spend two years in prison for fraud offenses committed while he was a member of the Council related to his misappropriation of approximately $100,000 taxpayer dollars that he directed to a non-profit organization he controlled to fund his unsuccessful 2006 Senate campaign.

Monserrate was sentenced in Manhattan federal court today US District Judge Colleen McMahon. He pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy this past May.

“Hiram Monserrate helped to underwrite his political ambitions with money that was intended to benefit those in need, and he corrupted his office in the process,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

“He stands in a long line of recent public officials whose crimes have undermined the public’s confidence in its elected officials. His sentence should serve as a reminder that public officials who break the law will be forced to answer to the public they betrayed, and they will be punished.”

This comes just over four years after the former Queens Democratic lawmaker was sentenced to three years probation, 250 hours of community service and 52 weeks of domestic abuse counseling (in other words, no jail time) after being found guilty on misdemeanor charges of abusing his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo.

That incident led to his expulsion from the state Senate in February 2010 – the first time in nearly a century that the Legislature has forced a member from office, and a move at least one of Monserrate’s allies (the last Amigo standing, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.) maintained was payback for his role in the 2009 Senate coup.

In 2005 and 2006, while he was a sitting councilman, Monserrate directed some $300,000 worth of discretionary funds to a nonprofit called Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, better known as LIBRE. In 2006, he used approximately $100,000 of that cash to pay LIBRE staffers to work on his primary challenge to then-Sen. John Sabini.

Monserrate narrowly lost the September primary to Sabini that year, but he mounted another challenge to the sitting senator two years later. This time, with Sabini weakened by his poor performance in 2006 and a subsequent drunk driving arrest, the Queens Democratic Party dumped him in favor of Monserrate, who was easily elected in the general election.

In 2010, Monserrate tried to return to the Senate by running in a March special election for his old seat. He was soundly defeated by Sen. Jose Perralta, who has since launched his campaign for Queens borough president in 2013.

UPDATE: Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who defeated Monserrate when he tried to make yet another comeback by running for an Assembly seat in the fall of 2010, released the following statement:

“With the sentencing of Hiram Monserrate today, we bring an end to a dark chapter in our community’s history. After Monserrate’s arrest, the people of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst voted overwhelmingly to elect leaders with integrity who will move beyond the corruption and criminal activity of the past.”

“We are a unified team of elected officials, and we will continue to work together to address the urgent problems facing working families, and to restore confidence in the ability of government to get things done and deliver lasting results.”

Monserrate, Hiram Sentencing PR

Blast From The Past

Compliments of The Brooklyn Politics blog, we bring you an unusually candid peak inside the Senate Democratic conference.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

Shortly after the 14-minute mark of an extended interview you can access by clicking the above link, Sen. Diane Savino provides details of the heated exchange that took place between herself and Sen. Kevin Parker back in February 2010 (not 2009, as the blog reports) while the Democrats were discussing whether to expel then-Sen. Hiram Monserrate after he was found guilty of a misdemeanor assault charge.

The verbal altercation almost became physical (Parker has a bit of a history), but Sen. Jeff Klein and then Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. interceded. Savino said she thought at the time that Parker had “lost his mind.”

She also couldn’t help but note “the irony that he’s coming at me defending a guy who was about to be expelled from the Senate for slashing a woman’s face with broken glass,” adding: “It just didn’t seem to make any sense.”

Much as happened since then.

The Democrats lost control of the chamber. Both Monserrate and Espada are long gone. (Monserrate was expelled, and Espada was defeated in a primary by Sen. Gustavo Rivera). Savino, Klein and two of their colleagues – Sen. David Carlucci and David Valesky – left the minority and formed their own conference, the IDC.

Savino’s recollection of the exchange, which appears in full after the jump, just goes to show you how far the Democrats have come since their extremely dysfunctional days in the majority.

Although that’s not to say they don’t still have their work cut out for them as they prepare for a re-match in hopes of wresting control of the chamber back from the GOP in 2012.

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The Monserrate ‘Precedent’

Sen. Kevin Parker might not be out of the woods yet.

While Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos yesterday appeared content to let the combination probation/fine/anger management sentence the Brooklyn Democrat received yesterday for his two misdemeanor assault convictions be the end of his troubles, some other Republican conference members aren’t so sure.

Sen. Andrew Lanza, who co-chaired the committee that ultimately called for the expulsion of former Sen. Hiram Monserrate following his conviction on a misdemeanor charge of abusing his girlfriend, said yesterday that a “precedent” was set with the ex-Queens lawmaker – a precedent that, out of fairness, should now be the standard against which other misbehaving senators are measured.

We now have a precedent that has been established by this Senate, and so I think we should review whether or not these facts trigger that precedent and whether or not we need to take further action and move forward with some sort of task force,” Lanza told our Erin Billups yesterday.

“I think what we ought to do is take a look at these facts, see whether or not the precedent that was established during the Monserrate task force is something that would support an investigation at this time.”

Lanza, a Staten Island Republican, agreed with Skelos’ assessment that the current focus is – and should be – on getting on on-time budget. However, when that deal is finally hammered out, Lanza said, the Senate will “have time to see whether or not we should take a further step regarding the circumstances surrounding Senator Parker.”

Monserrate’s attack on a woman and subsequent use of his elected position to cover that up, influence the outcome of his trial and hide key facts from a committee of his colleagues all contribute to the feeling shared by some members that his actions were far worse than Parker’s attack on a male Post photographer who was staking him out.

Parker’s history of anger issues works against him. But he’s generally well-liked, and Deputy Senate Minority Leader Neil Breslin’s “let bygones be bygones” comments yesterday indicate the Democrats would close ranks around Parker, which would inoculate him against any effort to oust him, which would require more than a party-line vote.

What’s really at work here is something members don’t like to discuss: Monserrate’s involvement in the 2009 Senate coup soured members on both sides of the aisle and set them against him, making it all the more easy to expel him from their ranks.

Piling On Monserrate

Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.

One day after expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate turned himself in to federal authorities in connection with the NYC Council slush fund scandal, a commission of his former legislative colleagues, which rarely takes action against one of its own, found reasonable cause to believe that he violated the Public Officers Law by setting up a legal defense fund and soliciting contributions from from individuals and entities that had business interests in his work as a senator.

“Most significant is our finding that Senator Monserrate directly solicited registered lobbyists and clients of lobbyists for contributions to the HMLDF,” reads the notice, which was quietly posted on the Legislative Ethics Commission’s Website yesterday afternoon.

“It is in this area that the Commission bases its finding that there is reasonable cause to believe that a breach of the ethics laws, specifically Public Officers Law §73(5) prohibiting illegal gifts, has occurred.”

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Monserrate Surrenders To Feds (Update)

NY1 contributor Gerson Berrero is reporting that former State Senator Hiram Monserrate has surrendered to federal authorities in Manhattan.

According to Berrero’s report, federal charges will be presented today as part of an unsealed indictment. He reports the charges are a result of Monserrate funneling hundreds of thousands of city dollars to a not-for-profit in Queens called LIBRE, or Latino Initiative for Better Resources & Empowerment. This happened when Monserrate was a member of the city council.

Monserrate was kicked out of the senate by his colleagues back in early 2010, after he was convicted of misdemeanor assault of his then girlfriend, Karla Giraldo.

Update: Monserrate’s attorney Joe Tacopina just spoke to NY1 and told them that the former Senator has not turned himself in yet, but will shortly. He expects Monserrate will be in court later this afternoon. Tacopina says he does not know what the charges are at this time, but believes they are in connection to the slush fund scandal.

Mailer Hits Thompson On Monserrate

Expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate may be gone, but he is far from forgotten.

Republican/Conservative state Senate hopeful Mark Grisanti (60th SD) sent out a mailer slamming his Democratic opponent, Buffalo Sen. Antoine Thompson, for donating $1,000 to his former Queens colleague’s legal defense fund. (Grisanti calls this “big money,” which I guess is an in-the-eye-of-the-beholder question, but that’s not a huge sum by Albany campaign cash standards).

The mailer, the second side of which appears after the jump, also hits Thompson for at first saying he voted against Monserrate’s expulsion and then later changing his tune to inform The Buffalo News that he actually had voted “yes” on expulsion. His explanation for the misunderstanding was that he was “sick and tired” when first approached by a reporter to discuss his vote.

The DSCC recently added a staffer to Thompson’s campaign at the senator’s request, a Democratic source confirmed. The staffer in question was relocated from Schenectady County Legislator Sue Savage’s campaign.

My source insisted this move was not an indication that Thompson is in trouble, but rather a sign that he has the favor of Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, who is inclined to heed the requests of nervous incumbents – and they’re all nervous this year, regardless of political affiliation – to build and preserve loyalty.

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Primary Result ‘Not A Curtain Call’ For Monserrate

Hiram Monserrate loss in Tuesday’s Democratic primary race in the open 39th Assembly race in Queens comes about seven months after he was booted from the state Senate by his colleagues following a misdemeanor assault conviction.

So does this mean that the disgraced lawmaker will bow out of politics? Perhaps not.

Diaz Sr. Wants Schneiderman Investigated

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is continuing to play his role of chief amigo defender and general thorn in the side of Senate Democratic leadership to the hilt, issuing a statement last night calling for an investigation of the man with the “self-righteous cowboy act who went after Hiram Monserrate.”

That, of course, would be Sen. Eric Schneiderman, who headed up the committee that successfully pushed for Monserrate’s expulsion in February.

“Why has there been no arrest in this crime committed by Senator Eric Schneiderman’s driver?” Diaz Sr. demanded.

“If I were to permit my staff person to commit a hit-and-run or, better yet, if Senator Pedro Espada had permitted his staff person to leave the scene of a car accident, would neither of us be arrested?”

“Will Eric Schneiderman come forward and answer the following questions that would be posed to any DWB who just crashed their car into a parked car: ‘When was the last time you had anything to drink and were you taking any drugs?’

“Or was this situation much simpler to understand: the Senator was just in a hurry and didn’t want his staff member to delay him by stopping?”

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More For Moya

On the heels of yesterday’s news that expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate is circulating petitions to run against him, Queens Assembly hopeful Francisco Moya announced today he has landed the support of three Democratic elected officials expected to run for mayor in 2013.

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former city Comptroller Bill Thompson and Manhattan BP Scott Stringer endorsed Moya, leading his campaign to declare that he has “Moya-mentum.”

Here’s what the trio had to say about their preferred candidate, as per the Moya campaign….

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Monserrate Circulating Petitions For Peralta’s Old Seat (Updatedx2)

A reader wrote in to report that a friend ran into a Spanish-speaking gentleman in Central Brooklyn who was carrying a clipboard with paperwork that turned out to be walking sheets and petitions for none other than expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate.

Yes, you read that whole thing right. The man was in Central Brooklyn – in the 56th AD (Annette Robinson’s district), to be exact.

Monserrate lives in Queens – in the 39th AD, which used to be represented by Jose Peralta, who vacated the seat to block Monserrate from regaining his Senate post in a March 16 special election.

That discrepancy aside, a source familiar with Monserrate’s plans confirmed that the disgraced lawmaker is indeed running for Peralta’s old seat and is indeed circulating petitions.

“Yes, it’s true,” the source said. “…When he runs, he runs hard. He could win that seat. Look at his base.”

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