Bronx State Senator Surrenders On Fraud Charges
By: NY1 News
NY1: Bronx State Senator Surrenders On Fraud Charges
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A veteran state senator is denying charges he defrauded a non-profit he helps manage.
Bronx State Senator Efrain Gonzalez Jr. was indicted Friday on charges of mail fraud. He's accused of using more than $37,000 from the West Bronx Neighborhood Association for personal expenses, includingYankees tickets, a home in the Dominican Republic and membership at a private club.
In court Friday, Gonzalez failed to make a formal plea but outside the courthouse he maintained his innocence.
"I'm going to fight for my constituents, like I fight this case," said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has been a state senator for 17 years and says he plans on running for re-election. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
A powerful, longtime State Senator from the Bronx has turned himself in to face charges he funneled money from a charity for his own personal use. Political Reporter Josh Robin was in federal court and filed the following story.
State Senator Efrain Gonzalez Jr. surrendered Friday morning to face serious federal criminal charges.
Accused of pocketing more than $37,000 from a non-profit that's supposed to empower the poor in his Bronx district.
"I'm going to fight for my constituents like I'm going to fight this case," said Gonzalez.
The West Bronx Neighborhood Association is supposed to get residents involved in local projects and interested in their community.
But the feds say Gonzalez used the charity's money for a slew of personal goodies: tickets to Yankee stadium, rental property Upstate and in the Dominican Republic, and club membership in the Caribbean country.
Gonzalez is listed at the association as an honorary advisory board member.
The city department of investigation, which participated in the case, says their probe of Gonzalez is continuing and wide ranging.
But his attorney is criticizing the case unveiled Friday, saying authorities have failed to bring more than a single count of mail fraud against the senator.
"He's going to fight these charges with the same determination he's fought for his community," said Gonzalez’ attorney Kim Richman.
There is no record that state money — over which Gonzalez has control — funded the charity.
But NY1 has learned the group has received state funds, although indirectly, through another Bronx non-profit.
Tax records from 2002 show Pathways for Youth gave Gonzalez' group more than $100,000 in consulting fees.
According to state Senate records, Gonzalez directed $35,000 to Pathways between 2002 and 2005.
Senator Gonzalez wasn't just any state senator. He rose the pinnacle of his caucus by becoming chairman of the Democratic conference. At the courthouse Friday, he said that not only will he run again and retain his seat, but he'll hold on to that leadership position.
Gonzalez is the second legislator to face charges this summer.
Brooklyn Assemblywoman Diane Gordon is fighting bribery charges stemming from an undercover video that has her shaking down a developer in exchange for a new home and French doors for her office. She's also running for re-election.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, was released on $25,000 bond, but can't leave the state. He is due back in court in mid-October, just weeks before Election Day.
— Josh Robin