Jury: Long Beach City Councilman Michael Fagen guilty of larceny
Long Beach City Councilman Michael Fagen was convicted Tuesday by a Nassau County jury of charges stemming from his collection of unemployment benefits while serving on the city council. He faces up to 4 years in prison.
The conviction means Fagen, a 56-year-old Democrat, has been removed from the council to which he was elected in November 2009, said Corey Klein, the city's attorney. Fagen is set for sentencing on April 8.
Fagen, who showed little emotion when the verdict was read, faced 40 criminal charges stemming from his collection of more than $15,000 in unemployment benefits between January and September 2010. The jury found him guilty of petty larceny and 18 counts of offering a false instrument for filing, but could not reach a verdict on grand larceny and 20 counts of offering a false instrument.
District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement the verdict reflected that Fagen falsely certified to the state Department of Labor he was unemployed.
"Elected officials are expected to put their communities and constituents first, not look for ways to pad their wallets at the expense of those they represent," Rice said in the statement. "Mr. Fagen violated the trust of Long Beach residents."
Fagen's attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, said he would appeal the conviction.
"It was an unusually long deliberation," Gann said of jury deliberations that began one week ago. "In hindsight, it hurt."
Jurors were split in Fagen's favor, 7-5, on the top charge of grand larceny, said jury foreman Glen Silva of Westbury. It had become clear the jury would not reach a verdict on that charge because "some people wanted more evidence," he said.
Silva said the 18 guilty counts of offering a false instrument for filing reflect weeks in which Fagen attended a Long Beach city council meeting. Jurors were split to varying degrees on the other 20 counts, he said.
Silva said he felt Fagen was guilty of grand larceny but some jurors "wanted more documentation."
Fagen, who declined to speak to a reporter after the conviction, had been scheduled to attend the Long Beach City Council meeting Tuesday night. He was not present at the meeting.
Fagen, who earned about $20,000 per year as a councilman, was indicted last February.
During the trial, which began Jan. 16, Gann said Fagen was a part-time employee eligible for unemployment benefits under state law. But prosecutors said Fagen knowingly defrauded state taxpayers by applying for unemployment benefits to which he was not entitled.
The City Council will select a replacement to serve the remaining nine months of Fagen's term.