This story was originally published in Newsday on May 7, 2009
Roger Corbin, the longtime Nassau County Democratic legislator, surrendered yesterday to federal agents on charges of evading income taxes on $226,000 he received from a developer working on a federal contract in New Cassel - and then lying to federal agents, according to court papers.
Corbin, chairman of the legislative finance committee, initially denied taking any money from the developer and told investigators he is "a lawmaker, not a lawbreaker," detailed a federal complaint.
"I know as a lawmaker ... if I got money that benefited me, I would have to pay federal, state and local taxes," Corbin said, according to the complaint.
In an interview last Thursday with FBI and IRS agents, Corbin admitted he lied during that meeting last November when he told them he did not use the money for his benefit, the complaint says. It is a felony to lie to a federal agent.
Corbin, whose district includes New Cassel, "compounded his crime by lying to federal agents to cover his tracks," said Ben Campbell, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
The motivation for the developer to have allegedly given the money to Corbin is not described in the court records.
Pleads not guilty
Corbin pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Central Islip and was released on his own recognizance by Magistrate Arlene Lindsay. Corbin and his attorney, David Blythewood of Garden City, declined to comment after the hearing. Corbin's wife, Regina, said in a brief telephone conversation that she had been advised by counsel not to comment on the case.
Another hearing has been scheduled for May 26.
The charges against Corbin, who has been in the county legislature since it was created in 1995 and is the former deputy presiding officer, are the first public signs of a four-year investigation by the FBI and the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS into possible political corruption on Long Island, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The charges also could cause turmoil in county politics. Democrats have only a 10-9 advantage over Republicans. Sources familiar with Corbin said yesterday he has no plans to give up his seat because he is innocent.
If convicted on all charges, Corbin, 62, of Westbury, could face up to 11 years in prison and be ordered to pay over $70,000 in back taxes, plus interest and penalties, along with $1 million in fines.
The developer, who was not named in the complaint, but whom sources identified as Ranjan Batheja of Dix Hills, allegedly gave Corbin 81 checks made out to cash between February 2005 and December 2007.
Allegedly put in own accounts
Corbin deposited them in his bank accounts and did not report the income to the Internal Revenue Service, the complaint says. An analysis of Corbin's financial records by the IRS and FBI showed he used the money for personal expenses, the complaint said.
Another check of about $3,000, deposited by Corbin into his account on Jan. 11, 2008, does not figure in the income tax evasion charge.
When questioned by the IRS and FBI agents in November, Corbin said he had given the money from the developer to an unnamed individual to pay workers at the developer's construction sites in New Cassel, the papers said. That person, however, had died Nov. 9, 2005, shortly after Corbin began to receive the money, the papers said.
Batheja's company has gotten $15 million in contracts for government urban redevelopment projects in New Cassel in Corbin's district and other areas on Long Island and New York City.
Corbin's campaign treasurer, Neville Mullings, was the nonvoting director of North Hempstead's community development agency, which awarded contracts to Batheja and other developers.
Mullings was not accused of any wrongdoing in the charges brought against Corbin. His attorney Fred Brewington said he has not been questioned by any authorities and has not engaged in any wrongdoing.
Batheja has not been charged. Neither Batheja nor his lawyer could immediately be reached for comment, and no one responded at his home in Dix Hills.
Staff writers Sid Cassese, Christina Hernandez and Eden Laikin contributed to this story.
THE CASE AGAINST CORBIN
Roger Corbin, Nassau County legislator
Evading income taxes on $226,000 he received from a developer working on a federal contract in New Cassel; lying to federal agents about the situation
Corbin pleaded not guilty yesterday.
THE POSSIBLE PENALTY:
If convicted on all charges, Corbin could face up to 11 years in prison and be ordered to pay over $70,000 in back taxes, plus interest and penalties, along with $1 million in fines.
Ranjan Batheja, 46, of Dix Hills. He is not charged.
THE NEXT STEP:
Corbin is due back in court May 26.
Title: Nassau County legislator
First Elected: 1995
Finance Committee chairman
Minority Affairs Committee chairman
Former deputy presiding officer
1964 Westbury High School graduate
Attended Pace University
Retired branch manager at New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.
Former community outreach consultant for North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System