Two Brooklyn lawmakers, a lobbyist, a real estate executive and two hospital executives are among eight people charged Thursday in connection with an influence peddling scandal.
State Senator Carl Kruger and State Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. were released on their own recognizance late Thursday afternoon, after they faced a Manhattan federal judge.
Kruger, who was once the chairman of the powerful State Senate Finance Committee, is accused of forming an "unholy alliance" with lobbyist Richard Lipsky and others, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.
"At its core, the complaint describes a broad-based bribery racket, reflecting an unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists and businessmen," Bharara said. "Specifically the complaint alleges over a period of years, Senator Kruger, who represented himself as a full-time legislator, was in fact working overtime, for businessmen who bribed him to the tune of almost $1 million."
Over the past five years, he allegedly made money in exchange for favorable official actions for those who paid him. In return, Kruger allegedly advocated for the bribers' interests, from sponsoring legislation to directing state funds their way.
Prominent lobbyist Richard Lipsky and hospital executive David Rosen are among those accused of paying the bribes.
To conceal the alleged corrupt scheme, Kruger is accused of establishing a shell company called Olympian with sole purpose of receiving the corrupt funds. The account was set up in the name of Manhattan doctor Michael Turano, Kruger's friend. Rosen allegedly also bribed Boyland in the form of a no-show consultancy job for which he was paid $3,000 a month.
Court papers reveal the FBI was keeping close tabs on Kruger, including a wiretap on his cell phone.
Boyland and Kruger did not speak to reporters as they left court Thursday, but Kruger's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said that his client would fight the charges.
"We anticipate the mounting of a vigorous defense to these charges and we will speak substantively about these charges when we've had a chance to study the complaint," said Brafman.
At a news conference Thursday, the U.S. attorney blasted Albany lawmakers, saying his office is "up to its eyeballs" in corruption work.
"It seems no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button," Bharara said. "When prosecutors charge politicians, it should not feel like a scene from 'Groundhog Day' and yet it does. Sitting or former state legislators from Albany charged in recent times by this office alone include Senator Vincent Leibell, Senator Hiram Monserrate, Senator Efrain Gonzalez, Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, and now of course, Senator Kruger and Assemblyman Boyland."
Monserrate and Kruger were part of the notorious "Gang of Four," renegade Senate Democrats, two of whom temporarily defected to the Republicans. Three of the four, Monserrate, Kruger and Pedro Espada Jr., have been charged with corruption.
In the wake of this latest scandal, many Albany lawmakers defended their integrity and promised to bring about new ethics reforms. However, several lawmakers argued even if changes are made to the law, it may not make a difference.
“It’s disgusting and it needs to stop,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, a Republican. “We obviously are going to look at how we can implement a very, very tough, disciplined ethics law moving forward.”
“People who want to do ethical wrong doing are going to do it anyway. It doesn’t matter how many ethical rules you put into place,” said Democratic Senator Ruth Hassell Thompson of the Bronx.
Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement, saying the arrests "again spotlight the failings of New York State government and highlight the urgent need for the Legislature to pass comprehensive ethics reform.... New Yorkers deserve a clean and transparent government comprised of officials who work for the people, not for special interests and certainly not for their own corrupt self-interests."
If convicted on all charges, Kruger faces 60 years in prison and Boyland faces 20 years.