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Queens Chronicle

Who’s next? Huntley wore a wire for FBI

Eight names revealed; Huntley to be sentenced today on wire fraud plea

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu May 16, 2013.

Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), who agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in 2012 as state and federal prosecutors closed in on her, is scheduled to be sentenced today on a wire-fraud charge in federal court in Brooklyn.

The disgraced former senator provided “evidence useful to law enforcement” during conversations she had with three elected officials while wearing an FBI wire in July and August of 2012, all after she was cornered by the bureau and federal prosecutors for her role in siphoning money from “a bogus nonprofit.”

Huntley, 74, pleaded guilty plea in February. The charge was connected with her admission to embezzling nearly $88,000 from a sham nonprofit organization.

The office of Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, stated in a sentencing submission released on Friday that Huntley, between July 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.”

State Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), was on the list. He surrendered to the FBI on Monday just before Lynch’s office unsealed a nine-count federal indictment against him.

While Huntley could be facing 18 months to two years in prison, the six-page sentencing recommendation 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 even 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 different 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, to 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 — allegedly Sampson — 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, a consultant, pleaded guilty to second-degree falsification of business records.

Federal authorities have said that 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.”

On Monday, the day on which Sampson became the fifth member of the New York State Legislature in 34 days to be arrested, Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) was in Jamaica announcing an agreement designed to draw a department store to the business corridor.

The former prosecutor, who himself has been the subject of investigations, reacted somberly to the revelations about Huntley.

“People need to have confidence in their elected officials,” Meeks said. “If prosecutors find evidence of wrongdoing, they should pursue it and let our justice system, which is the best in the world, though it is not perfect, proceed.

“Everyone is cloaked with the presumption of innocence,” he continued. “And I hope, if no wrongdoing is found, that prosecutors also will say that.”

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