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Yonkers developers get fines, probation in Annabi case

Yonkers City Hall. (May 15, 2012)

Yonkers City Hall. (May 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

A father-and-son Yonkers development team that paid bribes intended for former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay hefty fines Monday in federal court in White Plains.

Antonio Milio, 67, of Yonkers, and his son, Franco Milio, 37, of Scarsdale, pleaded guilty Feb. 3, 2012, to tax evasion, 11 days before the public corruption trial of Annabi and former Yonkers GOP boss Zehy Jereis.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti ordered the Milios to serve a year of probation and to pay $25,000 each. Avoiding more than $2 million in taxes was "appalling," the judge told the men.

"What you did to evade your lawful tax obligation is disgraceful," Briccetti said.

The Milios testified against Annabi, 42, and Jereis, 41, as did Anthony Mangone, a politically connected lawyer who was indicted along with Annabi and Jereis. Mangone pleaded guilty to bribery and tax charges and agreed to testify against Annabi and Jereis.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason P.W. Halperin, who prosecuted, said the Milios turning government witnesses created a domino effect toward nabbing Annabi and Jereis. "Their cooperation no doubt helped convince Anthony Mangone to cooperate," Halperin said.

Jereis was convicted of bribing Annabi for years so he could control her vote on key development projects in the city -- including Forest City Ratner's $600 million Ridge Hill Development and the much smaller Longfellow School Development.

The married Jereis testified that the $200,000 in cash and gifts he lavished on Annabi from 2001 to 2007 were a bid to win her heart. There was no love, however, at the sentencing when Annabi denied his contention and cursed him. Annabi and Jereis are scheduled to report to prison March 4. She has been sentenced to six years behind bars; his sentence is four years.

The Milios' lawyer, Lawrence DiGiansante, said at Monday's sentencing that "the government needed help" and that his clients "were helpful from the start."

Antonio Milio appeared on the verge of tears as he apologized for his actions. Franco Milio said nothing. The courtroom was packed with friends and family, some of whom let out sighs of relief when Briccetti said he wasn't going to impose a jail sentence. Both men hugged DiGiansante and shook hands with the prosecutors at the end of the proceedings.

Antonio Milio testified that in July 2006, he gave Mangone $40,000 in cash bribes and "legal fees" to funnel to Jereis, with the understanding that $30,000 of the money was for Annabi -- who then changed her vote in favor of the Longfellow project. The development never got off the ground, unlike Ridge Hill. Only $20,000 of that money made it into Jereis' hands, prosecutors said.

Milio Management owns 25-30 apartment buildings, with about 1,000 rental units.

As part of his cooperation deal with federal investigators, Franco Milio agreed to tape his phone calls to Mangone and wear a wire to meetings. Mangone became suspicious and did not implicate himself after the Milios agreed to cooperate in March 2008, prosecutors said.

Franco Milio regularly "tipped" city employees -- including building inspectors, garbage collectors and code inspectors -- hundreds of dollars, prosecutors said, adding that "the Milios insist they never asked for any special treatment or favors in return."

They also accepted some rent payments in cash that they did not report to the Internal Revenue Service as income, officials said.

From 2000 to 2004, the Milios admitted they paid property sellers additional cash, ranging from $25,000 to $300,000 in addition to the officially recorded selling price.

Still, prosecutors said their assistance outweighed their violations.

"Overall, the assistance the Milios provided to law enforcement was invaluable," Halperin and assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone said in a presentencing letter to the judge. "Simply put, without their information and truthful testimony, the prosecution in U.S. vs. Annabi, Jereis, and Mangone ... might never have been brought [to justice]."

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