The charges against Benjamin include bribery, wire fraud and two counts of falsification of records. They come from his time as a state senator and unsuccessful run for New York City comptroller.
According to the 22-page indictment, an illegal relationship blossomed between the ambitious politician and an unnamed Harlem real estate developer.
After agreeing to divert state funds to a charity managed by the developer, Benjamin reportedly received illegal campaign contributions.
“In doing so, Benjamin abused his authority as a New York State senator, engaging in a bribery scheme using public funds for his own corrupt purposes,” the indictment reads.
CNN further reports:
Prosecutors allege that Benjamin told staff and advisers that certain contributions were collected by the developer and that on more than one occasion, Benjamin personally met with the developer to receive his contributions — even meeting on the street to collect a “bundle” of contributions.
The indictment also alleges that Benjamin told the developer he’d help the real estate mogul obtain community board approval for a zoning variance permit for a property he owned, in exchange for a contribution to a political action committee.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams described the relationship as a classic quid pro quo, “Taxpayer money for campaign contributions — that’s bribery,” he said at a press conference this afternoon.
The charges against Benjamin do not mention the name of his accused partner. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s investigation led to the arrest of Harlem real estate investor Gerald Migdol, a close ally of Benjamin’s — and one of his most prolific fundraisers.
Forbes Breaking News shared a video of reporters asking Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) about the arrest of her lieutenant governor at the scene of a mass shooting in Brooklyn.
Besides threatening Benjamin’s political future, the development casts a shadow over Hochul’s reelection campaign, a mere one month after securing her party’s nomination.
Hochul herself hasn’t been immune to ethical scrutiny during her short time in office. Many New Yorkers viewed her deal with the Buffalo Bill’s out-of-state owners with skepticism after announcing they would receive an $850 million subsidy from state and county taxpayers to help pay for the team’s new stadium.
But that’s not all, as the New York Post adds:
Plus, she went along with a lame replacement for the state’s ethics panel that still leaves lawmakers choosing their own ethics police. (It’s no coincidence that Benjamin faces federal charges, like former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate chief Dean Skelos before him.)
Meanwhile, Hochul said, “I have the utmost confidence in the lieutenant governor,” as recently as last week when asked about the campaign finance investigation.
The New York State Democratic Party hasn’t yet responded to requests for comment.