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Prosecutors: Leibell Plea "A Sad Day" For Constituents
Shortly after former State Senator Vincent Leibell pleaded guilty to charges of Tax Evasion and Obstruction of Justice charges, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara said "This is a sad day for the citizens of Putnam County and a scene that has become all-too-familiar in New York State."
Said Bharara, "Leibell has only himself to blame for the fact that, after 28 years in public office, this conviction will now be the capstone of that career," adding, "He will be the latest in a long line of public officials who have placed themselves above the law.
Federal Prosecutors held a news conference in White Plains detailing Leibell's involvement in the corruption scandal.
Since April 2010, a federal grand jury, the FBI and IRS had been investigating allegations that Leibell had extorted cash payments from attorneys doing business in Putnam County.
Specifically,the investigation focused on whether Leibell had demanded cash payments from an attorney who provided legal services to a not-for-profit organization in Putnam that received millions of dollars in New York State Senate member item grants that Leibell sponsored as a State Senator. The NFP was not named.
Leibell, according to prosecutors, was accused of telling the attorney he would urge the Not-For-Profit organization not to pay him unless he give him half of the money that was invoiced, in cash.
Authorities say Leibell became aware of the investigation in late April 2010 when FBI and IRS agents began subpoenaing and interviewing witnesses about the allegations. It was then, they say, Leibell began meeting with the attorney to formulate a cover up.
On one occasion, officials say Leibell met with the attorney on a street in Carmel and directed him to lie to federal investigators about large payments withdrawn from his personal bank account, and to tell them he withdrew the money for a national or family emergency or for caring for his elderly mother.
During those conversations, the unnamed attorney was wearing a recording device and Leibell was heard saying "You and I say there was never any cash relationship. Period..Since you and I are in agreement, it didn't happen. All I know is, as long as you and I are consistent, I'm fine, you're fine. There was never any cash between you and I, Okay?"
As part of Leibell's plea bargain, he admitted to filing false federal income tax returns with the IRS for the tax years 2003 through 2006. He admitted earning at least $43,000 in cash payments from a legal firm for which he was a consultant.
After his plea this morning, Leibell was freed on $100,000 bail.
He faces up to 13 years behind bars when he's sentenced March 7, 2011.
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