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Queens Chronicle

Huntley taped six state senators

Peralta, Wills confident that no wrongdoing will be found by feds

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:30 am

The names of six Democratic state senators and a city councilman from Southeast Queens were among those contained Wednesday on a list of people who had their conversations with then-state Senator Shirley Huntley recorded by an FBI listening device in 2012.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York declined to comment on Wednesday on the names, contained in a sentencing letter connected to Huntley’s case, or U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein’s order to unseal the letter.

Those on the list engaged in recorded conversations with Huntley in 2012.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not comment as to how many of the people mentioned are under investigation.

But a presentence report submitted to Weinstein last week in the Huntley matter said the former senator’s cooperation yielded “evidence useful to law enforcement” in three cases, without specifying who the targets of the investigations are or were.

The list unsealed Wednesday includes:

• State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who is a candidate for Queens Borough President;

• State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), who was arrested in April along with City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and four others in connection with allegations that Smith tried to bribe his way onto this year’s Republican mayoral ballot;

• Curtis Taylor, Smith’s former press advisor;

• Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), a former Huntley staffer who in 2012 invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned about funds at a nonprofit group that are unaccounted for;

• State Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), who was arrested by the FBI this week on a nine-count federal indictment;

• State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), the only candidate for Brooklyn Borough President;

• State Sen. Ruth Hassel-Thompson (D-Bronx);

• State Sen. Valmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn); and

• Melvin Lowe, former political advisor to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The names were on a list given to Weinstein in connection with Huntley’s scheduled sentencing today on a federal wire-fraud charge.

Weinstein ordered that the list be unsealed Wednesday over the objection of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch declined to comment Wednesday as to which of the people on the list may be subject to continued investigations.

“I am confident that the authorities will find, if they have not already done so, that I have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever,” Peralta said in a statement released by his office on Wednesday afternoon.

Wills’ office issued a two-sentence statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“My attorney has been in contact with federal law enforcement authorities and he has been informed that I am not the target of any investigation arising from proceedings involving Shirley Huntley,” Wills said.

“I have personally not been contacted by any law enforcement officials to date and I look forward to continuing the work of the people of Southeast Queens that elected me,” Wills added.

The Chronicle was unable to contact Adams’ press representative.

Messages left at the offices of Sens. Hassel-Thompson and Montgomery were not returned as of the Chronicle’s deadline on Wednesday

Huntley, 74, pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in February in connection with the embezzlement of more than $87,000 from a sham nonprofit organization.

In April she received five years’ probation on a separate guilty plea to state charges connected with the misuse of nearly $30,000 from a different nonprofit run by her niece and a former political staffer.

The FBI tapped Huntley’s cell phone for a two-month period in 2012. She agreed to work with federal authorities after being confronted with some of the evidence they uncovered allegedly tying her to three separate “criminal schemes.”

Huntley agreed to record conversations with other officials, doing so in July and August of last year.

Huntley was defeated for re-election last year in a hotly contested Democratic primary won by now-state Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica).

Huntley, facing up to two years, could escape serious jail time, even though the government has declined to enter into an agreement with her as a cooperating witness.

Federal authorities said Huntley often gave “false, implausible and inconsistent” answers to their questions between June and November of 2012.

But a presentence letter specifically states that “a sentence below the guidelines” could be appropriate.

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