NY State Senate Leader’s ‘Personal Piggy Bank’ Health Clinic Raided by Feds
April 21, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Pedro Espada Jr., the Democratic Majority Leader for the New York state Senate, is accused of looting at least $14 million from his non-profit health clinic for personal expenses, such as airline tickets to Las Vegas, family trips and lavish restaurant meals, including $20,000 spent on sushi. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a civil against Espada on Tuesday, alleging the state lawmaker used the taxpayer-funded Soundview HealthCare Network as his “personal piggy bank.” On Wednesday, I.R.S. and F.B.I. agents raided the clinic, removing boxes of records from the facility, as part of an ongoing investigation into Espada’s activities, which could lead to additional criminal charges for racketeering and wire and mail fraud.
According to the NY Daily News, the situation looks grim for the beleaguered state Senate Majority Leader:
“The News reported that a joint criminal investigation by Cuomo and Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell is zeroing in on Espada for wire and mail fraud, sources said, adding that several search warrants have been issued. Prosecutors are even considering a racketeering indictment of the Bronx Democrat, built around the allegations outlined in the civil suit.”
Cuomo alleged in the civil suit that Espada used his health clinic as, a “personal piggy bank” to pay for various personal expenses, including campaign expenses, family trips, restaurant meals and even a Bronx co-op. “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 also took aim at the $9 million severance package Espada negotiated with the health clinic, noting that if paid, the clinic would be bankrupt.
Cuomo’s suit seeks restitution from Espada for the improper expenses and his removal as CEO and president of Soundview, as well as the removal of the entire board that Cuomo says was “packed” with family members and friends who approved Espada’s looting of the health clinic.
According to the Associated Press, Espada is known for his shenanigans as a freshman lawmaker, which drew criticism from both sides of the aisle:
“Espada is the freshman senator who was instrumental in the coup that gridlocked the chamber last summer. The impasse ended when he left the Republican-led coalition to return the majority to Democrats, each time extracting a lucrative leadership title.”
Espada responded to the lawsuit, saying it was all “lies and falsehoods” and blamed his political enemies for his troubles.