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US Attorney Seeks Pension of Former Councilman Convicted of Stealing Public Cash

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TWC News: US Attorney Seeks Pension of Former Councilman Convicted of Stealing Public Cash
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Former City Councilman Miguel Martinez, who was serving a federal sentence for stealing public cash, appeared in federal court in Manhattan Wednesday, as the U.S. attorney wants something else from him: his pension. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

It has been nearly five years since former City Councilman Miguel Martinez has been seen in public.

"Spend a lot of time with the family and get my life back together," Martinez said.

Sentenced back in 2009 to five years in prison, Miguel Martinez was convicted of stealing public cash to line his own pockets.

On Wednesday, the former Upper Manhattan elected official was back in court. This time, he is getting ready to fight for his public pension.

Gross: Can you talk about the forfeiture, the idea that the U.S. attorney is now going after your pension as well?
Martinez: I can't speak about that.

Martinez is one of the first former elected officials to face that question after spending years behind bars.

"It's part of facing responsibilities," he said.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has a long list of public officials he has put in cuffs. In the last week alone, he brought charges against upstate state Senator Thomas Libous and now-former Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa.

That lengthy resume of catching so-called corruption, though, is not enough. Bharara wants their pensions, too.

"For those defendants previously convicted and who have failed to satisfy the financial obligations imposed at sentencing, we will consider federal civil forfeiture actions against their pensions to satisfy criminal judgments," Bharara said last September.

For Martinez, he owes the government some $106,000.

On top of Martinez, Bharara is going after former City Councilman Larry Seabrook's pension. Seabrook is serving time for directing public cash to his friends and family.

The U.S. attorney also has also his eye on state Senator Malcolm Smith, who will be facing a public corruption trial next year. If convicted, Smith's pension could be on the line, too.

In Martinez's case, he is not currently collecting any pension benefits. In fact, he won't be eligible to for another 14 years. Nonetheless, that is not stopping the U.S. attorney, at least for now.

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