Powerful state Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) allegedly contacted an employee of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn in an effort to identify potential witnesses in a mortgage fraud investigation, and to determine if Sampson himself was being investigated.
A nine-count indictment of Sampson unsealed on Monday alleges the senator told an associate who was a defendant in the case that if witnesses could be identified, Sampson could arrange to “take them out.”
Sampson surrendered to the FBI on Monday morning, charged with embezzlement, obstruction of justice and making false statements to FBI agents.
The senator had been the subject of heightened speculation since Friday, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced that former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) wore a wire in conversations with three elected officials that provided “evidence useful to law enforcement.”
Those three names are in a sealed complaint that is expected to be delivered to U. S. District Judge Jack Weinstein on Thursday.
Sampson, 47, has been in the state Senate since 1997.
The indictment, announced by U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, does not discuss whether Sampson is the official identified as “state Senator #1” in Huntley’s presentence report — a senator who allegedly approached Huntley to have her use her influence on behalf of a businessman at John F. Kennedy International Airport in return for $1,000.
Lynch does accuse Sampson of embezzling approximately $440,000 from the proceeds of the sale of foreclosed properties while serving as a court-appointed referee for foreclosure proceedings in Kings County, or Brooklyn, Supreme Court.
The money, according to the government, was intended to fund Sampson’s unsuccessful 2005 run for Brooklyn DA.
“As charged in the indictment, for years, Sen. John Sampson abused his position of public trust to steal from New Yorkers suffering from home foreclosure, and from the very county he was elected to represent,” Lynch said.
“But the former Senate ethics leader didn’t stop there,” Lynch continued. “Sen. Sampson allegedly stole that money to fund his own ambition to become Brooklyn’s top state prosecutor, then engaged in an elaborate obstruction scheme to hide his illegal conduct, going so far as to counsel lies and the hiding of evidence.”
The indictment also accuses Sampson of directing “an associate who worked in the real estate industry,” who had given him a $188,500 “loan” which was not paid back, to withhold evidence from investigators; of using the employee in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in an effort to get confidential information related to the mortgage fraud investigation; and making false statements to the FBI in July 2012 when agents approached him to talk about the “loan” from the associate.
A partial, handwritten list of potential witnesses in the mortgage fraud case allegedly was found in the office of the U.S. Attorney employee, who was subsequently terminated.
The FBI said there was no contract drawn up for the loan, and no agreement on interest rates.
The FBI said “the associate” was hit with bank and wire fraud charges by the Eastern District Office in the summer of 2011.
An agency spokeswoman on Monday afternoon declined to comment on speculation in the media that the associate is Edul Ahmad.
Ahmad, of Queens, was indicted by the Eastern District Office in August 2011 in connection with a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme.
He pleaded guilty in October.
Ahmad also has ties to Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica).
The House Ethics Committee in December found that a $40,000 loan from Ahmad to Meeks in 2007 was not an impermissible gift. It found that Meeks made “inadvertent errors on financial disclosure statements” in 2007 and 2008 when the congressman failed to declare the loan on his financial disclosure paperwork.
The money subsequently was repaid, and Meeks faced no penalties in the House.
Sampson, according to Lynch’s office, faces 10 years on each of two counts of embezzlement; between 10 and 20 years on the various obstruction of justice charges; and up to five years on each of the false statement charges.