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Queens Chronicle

Monserrate pleads not guilty to charges

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Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:00 am

Former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate has been indicted on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud, the Manhattan U.S.Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

The allegations stem from Monserrate’s involvement with the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, a Queens organization with a mission of among other things, assisting community members in obtaining counsel and securing their legal rights.

The former politician is accused of using his power as a member of the City Council to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization only to directly benefit from its actions, using information LIBRE workers gained and the workers themselves to further his 2006 Senate campaign, which he lost.

In the summer of 2006, LIBRE allegedly sent databases containing names and contact information for more than 1,000 Queens residents gathered through its voter registration drive to members of Monserrate’s campaign team. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara claims Monserrate gained an advantage by being the only candidate with knowledge that these new voters were eligible and thus targeted them directly.

It is also alleged that Monserrate used LIBRE funds to pay workers to collect signatures to get his name on the ballot in the 2006 Senate election.

This is only the latest of Monserrate’s legal challenges. He was ousted from his senatorial position, which he won in 2008, after he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend this year.

He tried to regain his seat in a March special election but lost to Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights). Monserrate then tried to run as a Democrat against current 39th District Democratic Assembly candidate Francisco Moya, but lost that race as well.

“Today’s indictment of Hiram Monserrate is an example of federal and local law enforcement agencies working cooperatively to attack corruption,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, whose office has worked withthe office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York on the case.

Brown said Monserrate’s alleged misconduct represented “a betrayal of the public trust.”

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) is not directly named in the indictment, but formerly worked for both LIBRE and Monserrate. In a statement she said “I have been co-operating with the authorities, from the very beginning. Given the fact that this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

If convicted Monserrate could face up to 20 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and posted $500,000 bail.

On Monday, one of LIBRE’s former directors, Javier Cardenas, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court to mail fraud charges. LIBRE is no longer operating.

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