Veteran Richmond Hill Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio was arrested Wednesday on federal charges of corruption for allegedly taking bribes.
Unlike most politicians who jump at the chance to get their faces in newspapers or on television, Seminerio was usually under the radar. During his 30 years in the state Legislature, the 73-year-old veteran assemblyman didn’t hold press conferences, send press releases or talk to reporters regularly.
Following a months-long undercover FBI sting, which included checking bank records and intercepting communications, federal agents charged Seminerio on Wednesday for allegedly pocketing $500,000 in bribes through a fake consulting firm he created in April of 2000.
Seminerio turned himself in to federal authorities in Manhattan on Wednesday morning after the execution of search warrants in New York City and Albany.
According to a 17-page criminal complaint filed against Seminerio in Manhattan Federal Court, the former city correction officer used the firm Marc Consultants, based out of his Ozone Park home, to accept bribes from people, including hospital administrators, who wanted him to represent their interests in the state Legislature.
During a press conference on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael Garcia said Seminerio, who did little or no consulting work with Marc Consultants, abused his power as a state lawmaker. “(R)ather than use that power to further the interests of the people who elected him, Anthony Seminerio put his office up for sale for those willing to pay the right price,” Garcia said.
The complaint referenced at least four other unnamed assembly members and two unnamed state senators. According to published reports, FBI Special Agent Julie Brown said Seminerio collected payments for setting up meetings between clients and assembly members whose focus was health, corrections and brownfields legislation.
It was reported that investigators used an FBI agent to pose as a prospective new client and set up a witness — an acquaintance of Seminerio’s for 15 years — to record conversations with the assemblyman.
“I am at your disposal. You tell me what you want … I’ll take care of you,” Seminerio told a witness posing as a hospital executive seeking favors from the state Legislature, according to the Daily News.
In one taped conversation, Seminerio allegedly said he got the idea for his consulting business from two senators who had consulting companies, according to the criminal complaint, which did not name the supposed senators.
Seminerio said he set up his own firm after realizing that the people for whom he had done favors — people in the health care and hospital industries — had made thousands of dollars. Now he wanted his share: Seminerio decided that he would start charging the individuals and entities doing business with the state for his services. His fraud scheme scored him $500,000 and felony charges.
“I was doing favors for these sons of b—— there,” the FBI quoted Seminerio as saying to a witness during a taped conversation. “They were making thousands. Screw you. From now on … I’m the consultant.”
The complaint said that during that same meeting with the witness, Seminerio estimated that if he were to leave the Assembly, he would los 60 percent of his consulting business. It also alleged that the married father of three and grandfather of six is paid about $79,500 annually as an Assembly member.
A woman named Lisa, who answered the phone at Seminerio’s district office in Richmond Hill, said she had not yet read an accounts of the charges and that she had no comment.