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Feds charge Brooklyn judge in alleged embezzlement scheme

ALBANY — A state Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn has been charged with obstruction of justice in a federal investigation of embezzlement, fraud and corruption at a major credit union, according to the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Justice Sylvia Ash was arrested at LaGuardia Airport Friday and is accused in a probe that involved the Municipal Credit Union, which serves New York City, state and federal employees, according to the federal court statement. She served in a voluntary position on the credit union’s board from 2008 to 2016 and was chairwoman of the board from 2016 until her resignation. She served as a trustee of the credit union’s pension plan until late 2016.

In addition to a charge of obstruction, federal investigators accuse Ash of receiving tens of thousands of dollars in “reimbursements and other benefits” from the Municipal Credit Union for airfare, hotels, food, phone bills and entertainment expenses for herself and a guest to attend conferences in the United States and abroad.

Federal investigators in 2018 approached the credit union CEO at the time, Kam Wong, and asked questions about potential wrongdoing.

“In an attempt to protect Wong, Ash agreed to and did sign a false and misleading memorandum purporting to explain and justify millions of dollars of payments that Wong had received from MCU,” according to the federal statement. Wong turned over the memorandum to federal investigators with whom the CEO was cooperating, according to the statement.

Afterward, Ash sought to “influence and impede” the federal investigation by concealing and deleting text messages and emails and wiping a cellphone clean as well as making false and misleading statements to agents, according to the federal statement.

Ash has been a judge since 2006 and was appointed presiding judge in Brooklyn Supreme Court’s Commercial Division in 2016. She was suspended with pay by the state Court of Appeals on Friday with a date to respond to the action set for Oct. 18.

Wong pleaded guilty in 2018 to a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme at the credit union. In June he was sentenced to more than five years in prison, according to the federal District Court record.

The credit union serves more than 500,000 people with accounts worth more than $2.9 billion.

A telephone message left for Ash and her staff wasn’t immediately returned.

Also charged Friday was Joseph Guagliardo, a former New York City police officer and a former member of the credit union’s supervisory committee. He was accused of embezzlement, fraud and drug offenses, according to the federal court. He was arrested in Brooklyn Thursday.

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