A Bronx videographer testifying at the corruption trial of former state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada said she was asked to falsify a bill for filming an Espada family birthday party to make it sound like official business of his government-funded Soundview health network.
Evelyn Lopez said she submitted a $400 invoice for filming the 2007 party in Fairfield, Conn., for Espada's grandson, identifying it as "1st Year Birthday Party -- Private Home," but Espada's personal secretary demanded "revisions."
Before it could be submitted to Soundview's chief financial officer and paid, the secretary told Lopez to change the date and to identify the event as "Children's Community Outreach."
"The event was in a private home," Lopez had responded in an email. "I could not change the invoice. It would be dishonest." After she threatened to go to the chief financial officer herself, she quickly got a check from the Community Expansion Development Corp. -- a subsidiary of Soundview, prosecutors say, whose checkbook Espada controlled.
"I was outraged," Lopez told jurors in Brooklyn federal court.
Espada, 58, is charged with stealing more than $500,000 from Soundview, the financially struggling nonprofit he founded to provide health care for low-income people in the Bronx, by charging personal expenses and other schemes. His son Pedro Gautier Espada is also charged.
Lopez was one in a string of witnesses this week who described personal services to Espada that were paid off by corporate check -- ranging from a party caterer, a credit counselor and two lawyers to a tutor for a grandchild, an antique dealer who sold him a picture of a Negro League baseball player, and even a ghostwriter for a putative Espada memoir.
Don MacLaren, the ghostwriter, testified that he got a total of $8,000 in checks from the Community Expansion Development Corp. for working with Espada in 2006 on a book project that was eventually dropped. The idea, MacLaren later told reporters, was to tell Espada's life story -- but also to take some shots at former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who Espada felt had betrayed him.
"He regarded Spitzer as unpredictable and treacherous," MacLaren said.