Feds: Sen. Shirley Huntley recorded 'useful' conversation with elected officials

Former Queens State Sen. Shirley Huntley allowed the Former Queens State Sen. Shirley Huntley allowed the government to secretly record conversations "useful to law enforcement" with three other elected officials, including a fellow senator, before she was publicly charged with corruption herself, prosecutors said. (Aug. 27, 2012) Photo Credit: NCDA

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Former Queens state Sen. Shirley Huntley worked as an informant and secretly recorded meetings with seven other elected officials, including a fellow senator, before corruption charges against her were filed publicly last year, Brooklyn federal prosecutors revealed Friday.

The disclosure about Huntley, 74, marked the second time in as many months that prosecutors said they recruited a corrupt New York State lawmaker seeking leniency as an undercover operative. In April, Manhattan federal prosecutors said now-resigned Bronx Assemb. Nelson Castro wore a wire in a probe of a colleague.

It also added to a growing list of recent scandals that led Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last month to lament "pervasive" political corruption in New York. A few weeks ago, his office charged Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson in the case aided by Castro, and accused Queens Sen. Malcolm Smith and five other officials in another case.

According to a memo filed Friday for Huntley's May 9 sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn on charges of fleecing a nonprofit, she agreed to record her colleagues in May of last year, after the FBI told her it had caught her on wiretaps in fraud and bribery schemes.

She recorded nine people altogether, including two former staffers or consultants of officials in addition to seven politicians, between June and August, while she was still in office, the memo said. Huntley was publicly charged in late August, and voted out in a September primary.

The memo gave no clue to the identity of any individuals she recorded. But it said that one -- identified as "State Senator #1" -- had urged Huntley to use her official influence to help a businessman get favorable treatment from the Port Authority on a Kennedy Airport lease.

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Of the nine people Huntley recorded, prosecutors said, six provided no "evidence of criminal activity." But recordings of separate meetings with three of the elected officials, including State Senator #1, did "yield evidence useful to law enforcement authorities," the memo said.

Prosecutors planned to lay out details of the recordings next week in a sealed filing with U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, who will sentence Huntley. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch scheduled a news conference Monday in Brooklyn, but her office declined to comment on whether it would involve charges related to the Huntley recordings.

Huntley pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to embezzle more than $87,000 from the Parents Information Network, a nonprofit she founded that was funded through legislative "member items." She also agreed to make restitution of $1,000 for a bribe she got in the Kennedy Airport incident.

The recordings, as it turned out, did her little good. Prosecutors said in the memo that they ended up not offering Huntley immunity or a cooperation agreement, which could have produced leniency at sentencing, because in providing details about her criminal activity she provided answers that were "false, implausible and inconsistent."

At her sentencing next week, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines call for 18 to 24 months. An attorney for Huntley did not return a call for comment. -- With Yancey Roy

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