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Queens Chronicle

Shirley Huntley wore a wire for the feds

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 4:46 pm

Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) wore a wire and gave at least partial cooperation to federal prosecutors after FBI agents confronted her with the results of court-approved wiretaps of her cell phone in 2012.

Huntley, 74, is expected to be sentenced on May 9 in federal court for her guilty plea in February to wire fraud. The charge was connected with her admission to embezzling nearly $88,000 from a bogus nonprofit organization.

The office of Loretta Lynch, U.S. ttorney for the Eastern District of New York, stated in a sentencing submission released on Friday that Huntley, between June and August 2012, wore a wire during conversations with nine people, including seven elected officials and two other people who had been employed as staff members for or consultants to elected officials.

Recordings of six of the people involved did not yield evidence of criminal activity, though others produced “evidence useful to law enforcement.”

While Huntley could be facing 18 months to two years in prison, the six-page sentencing submission given to United States District Judge Jack Weinstein on Friday said there is “a range of reasonable sentences,” including “a sentence below the guidelines range.”

The report did state that Huntley generally accepted responsibility for her own criminal conduct, but that she was not fully cooperative — or truthful — at all times during sessions with law enforcement.

“Moreover, in multiple instances, the defendant adamantly defended her false representations, only relenting when confronted with documentary evidence contradicting her claims,” it read.

The former senator in April also received five years’ probation on state charges for filing false paperwork with New York officials in a scheme to take nearly $30,000 in taxpayer funds from a charity run by her niece and a former staffer.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said at the time that the reduced sentence was warranted in part because of Huntley’s cooperation in the federal case.

According to the recommendation given to Weinstein on Friday, law enforcement recorded conversations on Huntley’s cell phone in April and May of 2012.

“The wiretap revealed evidence of Huntley’s participation in ... three criminal schemes,” the report said.

The first, for which Huntley pleaded guilty in federal court in January, was connected with the Parents Information Network, which was founded in 1994 and received state funds through 2008.

“From about October 2005 to October 2008, the defendant embezzled approximately $87,700 in state funds from PIN,” Friday’s report stated. “In furtherance of her embezzlement scheme, the defendant  repeatedly made false representations ... about the use of state funds. ... While representing that the state funds would be used to support PIN’s charitable mission, the defendant instead embezzled state funds ... for her own use and the use of family members and associates.”

On the second, under a subheading titled “Other Criminal Conduct — The JFK Airport Bribery Scheme,” the government detailed an alleged effort by Huntley to use her influence to help a businessman operating at Kennedy Airport expand.

The airport sits in Huntley’s former district.

The report stated that Huntley was approached in March 2012 by another state senator, referred to as state senator #1, who suggested that Huntley intercede for the businessman with the Port Authority, which had turned down his effort to expand, “in exchange for payment by the businessman.”

Between March and May 2012, Huntley contacted an official with the PA in an effort to get the authority to lease more space to the businessman.

“In May 2012, the businessman provided the defendant a cash payment of $1,000,” according to the government. “The defendant  accepted this payment in return for her ongoing efforts to help the businessman obtain additional space at JFK Airport.”

The PA ultimately did not lease the additional space.

The third relates to a nonprofit called Parents Workshop, from which the New York State charges emerged.

The organization was started in 2006 by Lynn Smith, who is Huntley’s niece, and Patricia Savage, one of the senator’s former aides.

Both Smith and Savage pleaded guilty in February to a charge of third-degree attempted grand larceny for their roles in the scheme. David Gantt pleaded guilty to second-degree falsification of business records.

Federal authorities wrote further that additional details of conversations recorded with Huntley will be discussed in a sealed letter that will be delivered to Judge Weinstein next week.

They also said the Department of Justice had decided not to enter into a cooperation agreement with Huntley, saying that her answers during questioning sessions between June and November 2012 often proved “false, implausible and inconsistent.”

“These problems persisted ... even well after the defendant was warned that  further false statements would  seriously undermine any possibility of entering into a cooperation agreement with the government,” the report states. “Under these circumstances, the government concluded that the defendant could not serve as an effective cooperating witness, and therefore declined to offer her a cooperation agreement.”

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