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William Rapfogel sentenced to prison, taken into custody

William Rapfogel leaves court in Manhattan on Wednesday,

William Rapfogel leaves court in Manhattan on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, after pleading guilty to grand larceny and other charges in a plea deal. Credit: Bryan Smith

Politically connected charity power broker William Rapfogel was taken into custody in Manhattan state court Wednesday after being sentenced to 31/3 to 10 years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme while heading the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

Rapfogel is a longtime friend of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. His wife, Judith Rapfogel, who attended the sentencing, is Silver's chief of staff. Rapfogel was sentenced under the terms of an April plea bargain that also called on him to repay $3 million.

"I have tried hard to make amends," a subdued Rapfogel said to Justice Larry Stephen just before he was taken away by court officers. "But I also recognize that what I did was seriously wrong and that I will pay a heavy price for my actions. I am terribly sorry."

Rapfogel was accused by Attorney Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman of conspiring with insurance executive Joseph Ross of Valley Stream for more than 20 years to inflate the Metropolitan Council's premiums and take kickbacks from the excess profits.

He pleaded guilty in April to grand larceny, money laundering, tax fraud and making false campaign finance filings to hide the diversion of some kickbacks into city political races. Ross, and Rapfogel's predecessor at the council, Rabbi David Cohen, have also pleaded guilty.

Prosecutor Gary Fishman told Stephen that, although the scheme cost the council $9 million, Rapfogel had continued to minimize his crime in private encounters.

"This sentence is warranted given the nature of the defendant's conduct and his lack of contrition," Fishman said. "The defendant . . . was entrusted to safeguard tens of millions of dollars . . . intended to help underprivileged New Yorkers. Instead . . . he conspired with others to steal over $9 million and personally stole $3 million . . . to benefit himself and his lifestyle."

A spokesman for Schneiderman declined Wednesday to say what, if anything, the attorney general is doing to recover the full $9 million he says was stolen.

Judith Rapfogel and her husband's defense lawyers did not comment after the sentencing.

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