Hank Morris, former highly touted and in-demand Democratic consultant, sat this week on Rikers Island in the North Infirmary Command, which houses inmates who require extreme protective custody due to their notoriety or the nature of their case. He awaits his next detention destination after he was sentenced last week in a Manhattan courtroom to 1-1/3 to 4 years in prison, the maximum penalty allowed, for his involvement in a pay-to-play kickback scheme centered on the state pension fund that has to date garnered eight guilty pleas and recovered more than $150 million.
Morris pleaded guilty last November to securities fraud for what Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who inherited the marathon investigation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, detailed as a “a fraudulent scheme in which he used the pension fund’s multi-billion dollar alternative investment portfolio to enrich himself with so-called placement fees, and to hand out favors and paybacks to political friends and allies.”
Under the plea agreement, Morris forfeited $19 million that will go to the pension fund and is permanently banned from the securities industry in the state and prohibited from soliciting or receiving investments from the state or any governmental entity within the state.
Morris is also prohibited from holding any public position or entering into any contractual relationship with the state or any governmental entity within the state and has lost his license to practice law in New York.
The scheme ran from 2003 to 2006, during former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s administration. Morris is a longtime friend and political aide to Hevesi.
Hevesi, a Forest Hills resident and one-time Queens College professor whose son, Andrew, is a state assemblyman, pleaded guilty to felony corruption last October and is scheduled to be sentenced March 10. He, too, faces up to four years in prison.
Hevesi, 70, acknowledged receiving nearly $1 million in gifts in exchange for approving a $250 million investment in Markstone Capital Partners LP from the pension fund. Elliott Broidy, Hevesi’s friend and fundraiser, was a principal of Markstone at the time. The firm received $18 million in management fees from the pension fund.
Hevesi’s attorney, Bradley Simon, indicated through an aide last Friday that he, nor Hevesi, wished to comment on the Morris judgment.