Hiram Monserrate, a former state senator and city councilman from Western Queens, was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for directing $100,000 of City Council money into a fund used for his failed bid for the state Senate in 2006, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
In addition to prison time Monserrate, 45, was sentenced in federal court in Manhattan to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $79,434.49 in restitution and a $200 special assessment fee.
Monserrate, an ex-cop who was eventually elected to the state Senate in 2008 and then ousted in early 2010 after being convicted of misdemeanor assault for dragging his bleeding girlfriend through his apartment building in Jackson Heights, is scheduled to report to prison in March.
In 2005, the then-city councilman representing the neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights was allocated $300,000 in tax revenues to support the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, a Corona-based nonprofit. But when Monserrate unsuccessfully ran for state Senate in 2006, he siphoned $100,000 of those funds into his campaign, Bharara said.
“Hiram Monserrate helped to underwrite his political ambitions with money that was intended to benefit those in need, and he corrupted his office in the process,” Bharara said.
Specifically, Monserrate ordered LIBRE employees to work on his Senate bid, prosecutors said, for which LIBRE paid them thousands of dollars.
LIBRE employees also used discretionary funds to run a voter registration drive and create a database filled with voters in the Senate district. LIBRE then intentionally delayed giving the database to the state Board of Elections, Bharara said, which gave Monserrate an unfair advantage being that he was the only candidate who knew these individuals were registered.
Additionally, in the summer of 2006, LIBRE paid workers to gather signatures of registered voters on petitions designating Monserrate as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the state Senate, prosecutors said.
In May Monserrate pleaded guilty to the fraudulent handling of the money.
“He stands in a long line of recent public officials whose crimes have undermined the public’s confidence in its elected officials,” Bharara said. “His sentence should serve as a reminder that public officials who break the law will be forced to answer to the public they betrayed, and they will be punished.”
Queens resident and former comptroller Alan Hevesi was released from prison Wednesday after serving his sentence for a pension fund scandal. Also, during the summer former assemblyman Jimmy Meng, of Flushing, took $80,000 to bribe prosecutors into giving an individual a lesser sentence in federal court.
“After Monserrate’s arrest, the people of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst voted overwhelmingly to elect leaders with integrity who will move beyond the corruption and criminal activity of the past,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) said.