New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo took another shot at embattled state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. Wednesday, suing the Democratic majority leader on charges he used low-paid workers as part of scheme to siphon money from his Bronx-based nonprofit organization.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, comes a week after Cuomo sued Espada for allegedly using the Soundview Health Clinics as a piggy bank to enrich himself, his family and close friends with $14 million in state and federal funding over five years.
The latest complaint alleges Espada used a management company he controlled to create a sham job training firm that paid workers far below the minimum wage - about $1.70 an hour.
"This was a sham job training program pure and simple with workers receiving no training and getting virtually no jobs," said Cuomo. "The Espada business model at Soundview appears to have been based on lies and deceit, abusing hardworking people for profit and cheating the state out of tax dollars."
In a statement Wednesday, Espada accused Cuomo of again running a "political assassination in installments" with the latest lawsuit.
"This is a free job training program, at no cost to participants, for troubled individuals seeking a second chance," said Espada. "The company, while not obligated to do so, provides these unemployed participants with a stipend to help them with basic needs like transportation and lunch so they can get to and from this training and have nourishment in between."
The Cuomo lawsuit, which seeks back wages and an injunction, charges the program participants were given worthless certificates and performed menial janitorial tasks for a two-week period, after which they left. The workers were actually employees entitled to minimum wages, currently $7.25 an hour, the lawsuit alleges.
Espada, who represents portions of the Bronx, is the subject of a joint federal-state investigation into possible fraud and misappropriation of government funds. He has not been charged with any crime.