An influential New York state senator, an assemblyman and a well-known lobbyist were among eight people charged yesterday in what federal prosecutors called "a broad-based bribery racket" that lined the senator's pockets with more than $1 million.
A criminal complaint charges Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemb. William Boyland Jr., both Brooklyn Democrats, and Manhattan-based lobbyist Richard Lipsky with two counts of conspiracy and one count of money laundering -- the latest in a string of corruption cases to rock Albany.
Lipsky was accused of directing about $252,000 in lobbying fees into a bank account used by Kruger between 2007 and 2010 in exchange for the senator giving legislative support to Lipsky & Associates' clients. Among them were beer distributors concerned about pricing and local markets fighting to stop "superstores" from opening in the city.
During a search of Lipsky's home on Monday, agents recovered $102,000 in cash, including $4,000 in "crisp, large denomination bills in his suit pocket," U.S. Attorney Breet Bharara said at a news conference in Manhattan.
"At its core, the complaint describes a broad-based bribery racket reflecting an unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists and businessmen," Bharara said.
Kruger's attorney had no immediate comment. Boyland did not immediately return a request for comment left with his staff. Lipsky didn't immediately return a request for comment left on his voice mail.
"Today's arrests again spotlight the failings of New York state government and highlight the urgent need for the legislature to pass comprehensive ethics reform -- now," said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whose top policy goal is a tougher ethics law.
Bharara said the case against Kruger and Boyland was discouraging, given the negative publicity surrounding his office's recent prosecutions of five other former and current state legislators.
"Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call," he said. "Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button. "
State Republican chairman Ed Cox said the charges show ethics is a "Democrat problem." He is calling on the Democrats' Senate campaign committee to return the nearly $500,000 Kruger gave to the party last year, calling it "dirty money."
If convicted, Kruger and the other defendants face up to 20 years in prison.
A senator since 1994, Kruger was the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman from 2008 to 2010 when Democrats controlled the Senate.
The complaint alleges that since 2006, Kruger "received a stream of bribes totaling at least $1 million in exchange for taking official action on behalf of the bribe payers as opportunities arose."