Updated 02/09/2010 08:02 PM
City Councilman Charged With Extortion, Fraud
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City Councilman Larry Seabrook has turned himself in to face federal corruption charges, which were unsealed Tuesday.
The 13-count indictment, which was handed down at 2 p.m., accuses the 58-year-old Bronx Democrat of a host of charges, including money laundering, extortion and fraud.
Seabrook pleaded not guilty to the charges and says he's not resigning from the City Council.
"It's absurd to even suggest it's a criminal conduct. But I urge you, read the indictment," said Seabrook's attorney, Murray Richman.
The indictment includes charges that from 2006 to 2009, Seabrook, a former state senator, solicited $50,000 in bribes from a Bronx boiler company in exchange for helping the company get a contract at the new Yankee Stadium. The indictment claims he then funneled the funds to a local non-profit that he operated and controlled.
Seabrook is also accused of fraud in connection with the City Council's discretionary funding practice, which hands out money to non-profits.
"What we learned in this case is that corrupt public officials continue to devise ingenious and audacious schemes to overcome any obstacles between them and the taxpayers' money," Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said.
The indictment charges Seabrook with doling out over a million dollars to non-profits that he claimed were independent, but in fact were personally controlled by Seabrook.
Seabrook's non-profits also received payments from a New York City Fire Department diversity initiative and a City Council job placement program.
About $500,000 of these funds was paid out in salaries and expenses to Seabrook's close family members.
"Without transparency and accountability in the legislative budget process, discretionary funding is ripe for abuse, one might say over ripe," said United States Attorney Preet Bharara. "But rooting out corruption will continue to be a vital mission of this office. The cost of corruption is nothing less than the public's trust and that is a high price in a democracy."
Seabrook is also charged with fraudulently inflating the budgets of these organizations by engaging in a variety of schemes including rent fraud.
Additionally, Seabrook, who has held his council seat since 2002, is accused in the indictment of submitted forged or doctored receipts, along with receipts for hundreds of dollars of expenses that he had not himself incurred. For example, the indictment cites a submission for a $7 bagel and beverage as about $177.
This case comes on the heels of another political corruption scandal in the City Council. In December, Councilman Miguel Martinez was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing more than $100,000 in public funding.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement that if Seabrook's alleged crimes prove to be true, they display a galling abuse of the trust and confidence placed in public officials. She also said the matter has been referred to the Council's Standards and Ethics Committee.
Seabrook is expected to be released on $500,000 cash bail.