First guilty plea in Met Council kickback scandal

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A Valley Stream insurance executive pleaded guilty Wednesday to grand larceny and money laundering charges in connection with an alleged massive kickback scandal involving the influential former leader of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, state officials said.

Joseph Ross, an owner of Century Coverage Corp., admitted to first-degree grand larceny, first-degree money laundering and third-degree criminal tax fraud in Manhattan Supreme Court in an apparent plea deal, officials confirmed. Terms of the plea have been sealed.

Ross is a key player in the alleged scandal that centers on former Met Council chief executive William Rapfogel, a longtime Manhattan power broker with ties to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

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Rapfogel's wife, Judy, is Silver's longtime chief of staff. Rapfogel has said he's known Silver for more than 40 years, dating to when the powerful politician was his youth basketball coach. Rapfogel's lawyer has said Silver and Judy Rapfogel knew "nothing" about William Rapfogel's actions.

William Rapfogel allegedly conspired with Ross and at least one other person for more than 20 years to overcharge the cost of insurance policies that Century Coverage obtained for Met Council, and pocket the difference between inflated price and the actual price. Prosecutors had claimed Rapfogel had received more than $1 million -- as did Ross.

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Earlier this fall, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged Rapfogel with multiple counts of conspiracy, money laundering, grand larceny and criminal tax fraud.

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Schneiderman's office declined to comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors have said some of the alleged kickback money had been channeled into political campaign contributions. Ross allegedly "delivered checks for political contributions to Rapfogel, who in turn gave the checks to the various politicians and political organizations," prosecutors charged. Prosecutors noted that Century owners and employees contributed $120,000 to New York City candidates from the mid-1990s to 2013.

Ross' attorney, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment.

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