Queens Politician Charged With Alleged Campaign Fraud

The Wall Street Journal on October 24, 2012 released the following:

“By Sean Gardiner

A Queens politician was charged Wednesday with fraud in connection with his unsuccessful run for the City Council two years ago and obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening people who cooperated with the investigation.

Albert Baldeo, 52 years old, is accused of using “straw donors” to funnel multiple illegal contributions into his campaign in the fall of 2010 for the City Council’s 28th District, which represents Richmond Hill, South Jamaica and South Ozone Park, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday by Manhattan United States Attorney Preet Bharara.

The purpose of the alleged scheme, Mr. Bharara said in a statement, was to “fraudulently increase the amount of matching funds provided by the New York City Campaign Finance Board” to Mr. Baldeo’s campaign.

Mr. Baldeo is a Democratic district leader in Queens who lost to Ruben Wills in a November 2010 special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of City Councilman Thomas White Jr.

Mr. Bharara said in a statement that Mr. Baldeo “was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances.”

Mr. Baldeo reported that he received a total of $47,803 in campaign donations and sought matching funds on about $15,000 which, under the city’s complicated calculation system, would have resulted in him receiving about $90,000 in matching public funds. However, the Campaign Finance Board ruled that Mr. Baldeo was ineligible for those matching funds “due to serious, unresolved questions about the validity of various contributions to the campaign,” the complaint states.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation subsequently pursued an investigation in which they discovered that Mr. Baldeo had “straw donors” fill out campaign contribution cards falsely purporting that they donated their personal money to Mr. Baldeo’s campaign.

“These (donations) were nothing more than funds drawn from his own bank account, disguised as donations from others,” Mary Galligan, FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office, said in a statement.

In at least one instance, Mr. Baldeo’s office manager was provided $1,375 in cash allegedly by Mr. Baldeo and told to get two money orders totaling that amount. People purporting to be legitimate donors then signed over the money orders to Mr. Baldeo’s campaign.

Mr. Baldeo is also alleged to have provided clients, whom he had provided legal services to in immigration matters, a money order equal to the money they paid him. He instructed them to fill out the money order to his campaign, the complaint states.

Mr. Bharara contends that after learning that the FBI was investigating his campaign donations, Mr. Baldeo instructed some of the straw donors not to cooperate or to lie to investigators, saying they could get in trouble if they told the agents the truth.

When one straw donor refused to lie, Mr. Baldeo is alleged to have faxed a threatening letter to the straw donor’s lawyer, the complaint states. And a person the complaint describes as “a co-conspirator of Baldeo’s not charged” made false allegations to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services that the man had abused his grandchild.

Mr. Baldeo was elected as Democratic Male District Leader in Queens’ District 38, Part B, in September 2010 and still holds that position. The official duties of the district leaders include electing the chair of the county political party, setting the party’s platform, appointing election workers at poll sites and helping to select nominees for civil court judgeships. It’s an unpaid, two-year term.

Mr. Baldeo surrendered to FBI official Wednesday morning and was awaiting an appearance in Manhattan federal court. His lawyer, Henry Mazurek, released a statement saying that the government’s “crusade” against Mr. Baldeo was “vindictive and discriminatory.”

“Albert Baldeo has devoted himself to public service in his Queens neighborhood as a district leader and has built a career as a lawyer representing the most needy in the Guyanese and other immigrant communities in which he serves,” he said.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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