New York Lt. Governor Arrested in Campaign Donation Scheme

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, whose seven months on the job have been overshadowed by investigations into a previous campaign, was arrested Tuesday in a federal investigation into corruption.

The Democrat was accused in an indictment of participating in a scheme to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin’s agreement to use his influence as a state senator to secure a $50,000 grant of state funds for a nonprofit organization. for-profit controlled by the developer.

Facing charges including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsifying records, he was expected to make an initial appearance Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. Two attorneys representing Benjamin did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Benjamin joined Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration in September, handpicked by her to his previous post a couple of weeks after taking office following former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation over sexual harassment allegations.

Just over two months later, a real estate developer was indicted for diverting campaign contributions toward Benjamin’s unsuccessful run for New York City Comptroller. Federal authorities charged Gerald Migdol with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft by illegally giving donations to Benjamin’s campaign.

The indictment alleges that Benjamin, a former state senator from Harlem, and others who acted at his direction or on his behalf also engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up the scheme that spanned from 2019 to 2021.

They falsified campaign donor forms, misled city regulators and provided false information on investigative forms Benjamin filed while he was being considered for appointment as lieutenant governor, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors had previously made no charges against Benjamin, and his campaign said at the time of Migdol’s arrest that he had forfeited any improper donation as soon as it was discovered.

More recently, reports surfaced that Benjamin had been issued subpoenas regarding financial problems even before Hochul chose him as lieutenant governor.

Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy said in a prepared statement that “Hochul chose a dirty politician to be his partner in government and running mate.”

“Brian Benjamin’s shady dealings and corruption were well documented, but Hochul turned a blind eye and removed him from the governorship,” Langworthy said.

Hochul said at a news conference Monday that he was unaware of the citations when he chose Benjamin to be his No. 2.

She said last week that she had the “utmost confidence” in Benjamin.

“This is an independent investigation related to other people and he is fully cooperating. He is my running mate,” Hocuhl said Thursday at a news conference.

Legislative leaders from the Republican minority, Senate Leader Rob Ortt and Assembly Leader Will Barclay, have called on Benjamin to resign.

“Kathy Hochul and Senate Democrats can tolerate this corruption, but New Yorkers can’t and neither can I,” Ortt said. “I am calling on Governor Hochul and Senate Democrats to stop hiding from the truth and join me in demanding Brian Benjamin’s resignation.”

Hochul’s spokesmen, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, had no immediate comment Tuesday when asked if Benjamin should resign.

If Benjamin resigns, he will likely still appear on the ballot for the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary, even if Hochul chooses a new lieutenant governor, according to state election law.

“There are only three ways to get off the ballot: death, decline or disqualification,” state board of elections spokesman John Conklin said in an email.

Benjamin was the state’s second black lieutenant governor. During his run in the State Legislature, he emphasized criminal justice reform and affordable housing. His district included most of downtown Harlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents.

He has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, and has worked as an affordable housing developer.


Hays reported from New York. Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela and Larry Neumeister contributed from New York, and Michael Hill contributed from Albany.

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