Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Feds Raid NY Democrat Pedro Espada's Soundview Health Offices

This couldn't happen to a nicer guy. A day after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo launched a civil investigation into New York Democrat State Senator Pedro Espada's dealings with Soundview Health's finances and alleged that Espada was basically engaging in corporate malfeasance, the feds and state law enforcement launched their own criminal investigation.
Agents from the FBI, IRS and Cuomo's office swooped in around 7 a.m., removing boxes of material from the rear entrance used by boardmembers and Espada. Agents also used boltcutters to break open two large shipping containers being used as makeshift offices and stacked with "Vote Pedro Espada" campaign literature and boxes of files.

Officials appeared to be focusing on financial documents: Cardboard boxes removed were labeled, in black marker, "payroll master control," "payroll register," and "timesheets." Many of those boxes dealt with 2005 records.

It did not appear that anyone was arrested. Cuomo is expected to make a statement about the raid later this morning.

Yesterday, Cuomo called criminal charges "a very real possibility," and said the scale of Espada's alleged misconduct was "outrageous."

A source said the raid was conducted early this morning to minimize disruption for patients. Soundview remains open, according to patients, even as federal agents rife through the offices of some of the executive members.

Patients and workers are being allowed to enter, but federal agents have blocked off the center's administration offices where they are sifting through evidence.

Patients were not surprised.

Maria Ortiz, 54, said, "They're late on this. They should have done this years ago."
Soundview was nothing more than a conduit for Espada to enrich himself, and was using Soundview for his personal political and financial purposes. Wire and mail fraud charges are a real possibility here.

Cuomo had alleged that Soundview was being used as Espada's personal piggy bank and that more than $80,000 was taken by Espada for trips and restaurant meals. He even used it as a line of credit:
Cuomo in the civil suit charged that Espada used his not-for-profit health center as a "personal piggy bank" to pay for family trips and $80,000 in restaurant bills - including $20,000 in sushi.

Sources say Espada stuck his health clinic with the tab for $9,480 in JetBlue tickets to San Juan and $20,000 in sports and theater tickets.

"Siphoning money from a charity would be egregious under any circumstances, but the fact that this was orchestrated by the state Senate majority leader makes it especially reprehensible," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said Espada, founder and president of the Bronx's Soundview HealthCare Network, used the organization as a line of credit, running up $450,000 in personal expenses on his corporate credit card and $100,000 in campaign expenses.
Espada continues to claim that he did nothing wrong and that Cuomo is doing this for political purposes and that he'll be vindicated.

I doubt it.

Espada is one of the shadier characters in Albany, and was at the center of the coup that turned the Senate over to the GOP last year for several months (along with disgraced Democrat Hiram Monserrate) after Democrats won the chamber for the first time in decades. He's in politics for his personal enrichment and his constituents are a distant concern. Apparently, so are those who rely on Soundview for their health care.

Here's more on Espada's take on Cuomo's investigation:

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