Albert Baldeo, the Ozone Park political activist, former Democratic district leader and candidate for several elected offices, was found not guilty Monday of three counts of campaign-related fraud but convicted of seven counts of obstructing justice. Baldeo said he is appealing the convictions.
Baldeo was charged in connection with allegations that he used straw donors to fund his campaign for a special election to the City Council in 2010. He previously had run for the Council in 2005, and the state Senate in 2006.
He claims the fact that he was acquitted on the mail and wire fraud charges shows that the government's case had no merit, and that the jury was deadlocked for two days before the judge "demanded" a unanimous verdict.
"We ... condemn the fact that the hung jury was forced to make a decision 'one way or the other' in this case when they specifically reiterated to the Judge that they lacked unanimity, and were deadlocked and had doubts in finding Mr. Baldeo guilty of the obstruction of justice charges," said a statement issued by People for Baldeo, which is based at his office.
Baldeo said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had intimidated contributors to the campaign, saying they would be deported if they did not back the government's claims. Those people then called Baldeo for advice, he said, and when he advised them of their constitutional rights, the government "retaliated" by bringing the obstruction charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of those counts.
The defendant said the real reason he was charged is that he is an agent of change whose representation of the Indo-Caribbean community is not welcomed by the political establishment.
The office of Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Michael Gannon contributed to this story.