Al Baldeo, the Democratic district leader in the 38th Assembly District and former candidate for City Council and state Senate, surrendered to the FBI on Wednesday on charges that he spearheaded a scheme to use straw donors to funnel multiple illegal campaign contributions to his City Council campaign.
In 2010, Baldeo, a Richmond Hill lawyer, ran in the special election to fill the 28th Council District seat left vacant by the death of former Councilman Tom White Jr. He lost the race to Councilman Ruben Wills (D-South Jamaica).
According to the indictment released by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Baldeo used false donors in order to get matching funds from the city during his 2010 campaign. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Baldeo allegedly provided money orders and cash for others to give to him in their names, making it appear that they donated the money themselves.
Further, the indictment alleges that he asked the fake donors to lie to federal investigators when he learned they were probing the scheme.
He is facing four charges including fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and obstruction of justice and two counts of conspiracy to do each. If convicted, Baldeo could face up to 20 years in prison on each charge.
“As alleged, Queens District Leader Albert Baldeo was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances — including engaging in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws by funneling his own money through straw donors. Baldeo even allegedly used fear and intimidation to prevent others from exposing his conduct. As today’s charges demonstrate, we will not sit idly by and allow candidates for elected office to corrupt the electoral process or the administration of justice,” Bharara said in a statement.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Baldeo's attorney, Henry Mazurek, said the government was harassing and targeting Baldeo unfairly.
"Albert Baldeo has devoted himself to public service in his Queens neighborhood as a district leader and has built a career as a lawyer representing the most needy in the Guyanese and other immigrant communities in which he serves," the statement read. "The government has expended tremendous resources to harass and target him for a city council campaign in which he received no public funds."
Baldeo also ran for the City Council in 2005 and 2009, losing both times to White, and for the state Senate in 2006 when he fell a few hundred voters shy of defeating then-Sen. Serphin Maltese. In the latter race, many local Democratic clubs declined to endorse Baldeo and instead backed Maltese.
Since his 2010 loss, Baldeo has remained involved in politics, serving as a Democratic district leader and attending a number of events in the Richmond Hill and Indo-Caribbean community as part of his group, United Communities Alliance. Baldeo had scheduled a community forum meeting on Tuesday night at La Bella Vita in Ozone Park that was abruptly canceled.