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Another New York lawmaker charged in corruption case

April 04, 2013|By Tina Susman

NEW YORK -- For the second time in three days, prosecutors announced corruption charges Thursday against a New York state lawmaker, this time accusing a legislator of accepting bribes from businessmen who wanted his help in running and maintaining adult day-care centers.

A 36-page complaint charged Sen. Eric Stevenson, who represents the 79th District in the Bronx, with accepting about $22,000 -- most of it stuffed into envelopes and handed over at a number of secretly recorded meetings -- between April 2012 and this month. Stevenson, 46, who was elected in 2010, was charged with fraud, conspiracy and bribery and could face at least 20 years in prison if convicted.

“So here we go again,” the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said at  a news conference. “This has become something of a habit.”

On Tuesday, Bharara announced charges against Sen. Malcolm A. Smith and five others, including a New York City councilman, on charges Smith had tried to buy his way onto the 2013 mayoral ballot. Smith, a Democrat from Queens who hoped to run for mayor as a Republican, was charged with paying two Republican Party county officials to get their support for his GOP candidacy.

The investigation ofStevenson began more than a year ago and was aided by another state lawmaker, Nelson Castro, who was referred to in the criminal complaint as Assemblyman 1.

Castro also was accused of wrongdoing but avoided prosecution by cooperating with prosecutors and by resigning Thursday as the criminal charges were announced.

He and an unidentified cooperating witness secretly recorded meetings involving Stevenson and the four businessmen who also are charged with being onvoled in a scheme to operate adult day-care centers for senior citizens and disabled adults in the Bronx, and to prevent competitors from doing business in the area.

Among other things, Stevenson is charged with using his position to sponsor legislation that declared a three-year moratorium on the construction of new adult day-care centers in New York City, but which exempted those operated by his co-defendants: Igor Belyansky, Rostislav Belyansky,  Igor Tsimerman and David Binman. Such centers offer meals, activities and supervision to adults who cannot be on their own, many of whom have medical issues that need close monitoring.

During one meeting in a steakhouse last year, prosecutors say, the businessmen tried to hand Stevenson an envelope containing $10,000 in cash in exchange for his help. Stevenson, concerned that the restaurant might have surveillance cameras, did not take the money until the group was outside. According to the complaint, the transfer of the envelope  was captured on video by the cooperating witness, who was equipped with a camera.

Emails and phone calls detailed in the complaint capture Stevenson pressing for cash from the businessmen to pay for an inauguration event in January 2013, and referring to one of the co-defendants as “Santa,” because of the money he was anticipating receiving from him. But the secret recordings also show that Stevenson was aware of several other state legislators whose careers had been ruined by corruption scandals.

“Be careful of those things, man,” he told the cooperating witness in one conversation, referring to sting operations. “The recorders and all those things. … A lot of guys working to put a lot of people away, man.”'

Bharara, in his news conference, said the charges showed that "political corruption in New York is indeed rampant and that a show-me-the-money culture in Albany is alive and well."

Stevenson and the other defendants were expected to appear in federal court later Thursday.

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Tina.Susman@latimes.com

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