Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hiram Monserrate Indicted For Skimming $100k+ From His Nonprofit Organization

Former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, a Democrat from Queens, was indicted on federal corruption charges, including mail fraud and conspiracy.
Mr. Monserrate, who was a New York police officer before entering politics, was accused of steering $300,000 in discretionary city money to a group he controlled and using at least one-third of it to pay for his first run for the New York State Senate.

It is unclear how much of it was put to legitimate use. “We are still in the process of looking at information and calculating things,” said Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The charges are another embarrassment for Mr. Monserrate, whose political career was unraveled by a criminal conviction that resulted in his becoming the first lawmaker expelled from the State Legislature since Calvin Coolidge was president. Mr. Monserrate surrendered on Tuesday, becoming the latest lawmaker from New York City to stand accused of public corruption.

According to an indictment, workers at Libre served as an extension of Mr. Monserrate’s campaign, going door to door in western Queens, registering voters and collecting signatures to get Mr. Monserrate on the ballot in 2006.

“Worthy nonprofits have access to public money because they’re meant to be a resource to the community, not a piggy bank to politicians,” Mr. Bharara said at a news conference.
For those who have followed Monserrate's exploits, this is not surprising. Monserrate has done little to show that he upholds the law and has repeatedly shown that he is nothing more than a thug in a suit (witness the conviction on misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend and subsequent expulsion from the Senate).

The truly sad part is that many politicians have set up nonprofits that operate in much the same way that Monserrate had done. They then feed those nonprofits from member items that are included in the annual budget and put their own family and friends to work at those nonprofits.

Among those whose nonprofits are being scoured for criminality, Monserrate's partner in crime, Pedro Espada Jr. It was this duo that decided to shut down the State Senate and engaged in a "coup" to give power back to the Republicans because the duo wanted more power and control in the Democratic caucus. Four other New York legislators have found themselves in jail for similar setups.

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