Another state senator arrested

May 7, 2013

Former Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson turned himself in to federal authorities Monday, after being accused in a nine-count indictment of embezzling nearly half a million dollars from mortgage foreclosure accounts, and then trying to cover it up.

According to the federal compliant, Sen. Sampson is accused of embezzling $440,000 in funds that he was entrusted to care for as a court appointed referee on four foreclosed Brooklyn properties.   

Sampson allegedly used part of the money to try to pay back debts incurred in a failed bid to be the Brooklyn district attorney in 2005 .

U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District Loretta Lynch says for Sampson, it was “all about him.”

“The fact that he was trying to become the top state prosecutor in this borough I think shows the extreme arrogance and hubris that is involved in this case,” Lynch said.

A portion of the money, $188,000, was stolen, Lynch alleges, as part of a phony loan that Sampson arranged with a real estate developer. That developer was later arrested for other crimes. Sampson, the complaint says, then tried to tamper with the investigation by obtaining and hiding an incriminating document that detailed the fake loan. He later lied to the FBI, telling them he had never seen the document.

Federal prosecutors found out about many of the details of the alleged embezzlement and attempted cover up because they were tapping Sampson’s cell phone.

At one point, Sampson even tried to convince an employee of the U.S. Attorney’s office to obtain a list of the potential witnesses against him, saying in a taped conversation that he could arrange to “take them out.”   

Sue Lerner, with Common Cause, says the charges against Sampson are yet another sad set of events in Albany. “This one is just staggering,” Lerner said. “What more do we need to pass some real reform in Albany?”  

Several lawmakers, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are pushing anti-corruption bills.

Sampson is the latest Albany lawmaker to now be stripped from his committee assignments and thrown out of the Senate Democratic Conference, says Senate Democratic Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“He has no role in the conference,” said Stewart-Cousins. She stopped short of asking for Sampson’s resignation, but says she doesn’t know how it’s possible now for him to effectively serve his constituents.  

State Sen. Malcolm Smith was asked to leave the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference last month, after being charged in a scheme to bribe his way onto the Republican New York City mayoral ticket.  

Sen. James Sanders, a Democrat from Queens, replaced Sen. Shirley Huntley, who lost her re-election bid after being convicted of stealing $87,000 by funneling it through a not-for-profit that she ran. Huntley, who was recently revealed to be one of at least two lawmakers who recorded their colleagues for law enforcement as part of the corruption probes, is to be sentenced on Thursday. Sanders emerged from a private conference of Senate Democrats, where he says many were disappointed and angry.  

“Sure there’s a certain amount of irritation, of frustration,” Sanders said. “We’re doing so much good work, and that’s not being picked up. It’s being overshadowed by other things.” Sanders says he, too, is pushing for anti-corruption measures including campaign finance reform.  

Senate Republicans, who co-lead the Senate with the Independent Democrats, took a shot at the rest of the Senate Democrats. The Senate Democrats have complained that they should be the ones running the Senate, since numerically they have more members than the GOP.  A spokesman for Republican Leader Dean Skelos says, in a statement, that while Democrats say they had cleaned up their conference, the arrest of Sampson shows “they may still have some work to do.”