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N.Y. comptroller admits to fraud, steps down

December 23, 2006|From the Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — The state's chief financial officer, Comptroller Alan Hevesi, resigned Friday and pleaded guilty to a felony for using a state employee as his wife's chauffeur.

The plea effectively ended Hevesi's 35-year political career and wrapped up an investigation by Albany County Dist. Atty. David Soares, who had been presenting evidence about Hevesi to a grand jury.

Hevesi, 66, will serve no jail time. He agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and not file any appeals. He also agreed not to take office Jan. 1; the New York City Democrat had been reelected in November despite the scandal.

Republican Gov. George E. Pataki said he might appoint an interim comptroller. The Legislature is responsible for filling vacancies in state offices, but the governor can appoint a temporary replacement if the Legislature is in recess.

"I want to apologize to the people of New York state who have given me the opportunity to serve them," Hevesi said after a court appearance. "I want to apologize to the 2,400 professionals who work in the comptroller's office, and I want to apologize to my family who have been so strong and loving during this process."

In court, Hevesi acknowledged that he used a state employee to provide services for his wife that "could not be properly characterized as security" during 2005 and 2006.

Hevesi admitted defrauding the government, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 1 1/3 to four years in prison. He must submit DNA for the state's databank and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9.

In October, the bipartisan state Ethics Commission determined his use of state employees as chauffeurs violated state law. Most of the driving was done by Nicholas Acquafredda, who also helped Carol Hevesi with errands and even with physical therapy.

Acquafredda told investigators he provided personal services for Carol Hevesi including trips to Bloomingdale's and delivering laundry. Witnesses said Acquafredda took out her trash, moved her furniture and watered her plants.

Hevesi has since paid the state more than $82,000 for the service. Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer, a one-time Hevesi ally who was elected governor in November, ordered him to pay more, bringing his total payback to $206,293.79.

Hevesi said his wife had been ill for decades, had undergone numerous back surgeries and heart surgery, and had attempted suicide in the 1990s.

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