Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and family stole $14 million from non-profit clinic: suit

Juan Gonzalez

Wednesday, April 21st 2010, 4:00 AM

Breakaway Democratic Senator Pedro Espada on the floor of the  Senate chamber during a short Republican session, in the Capitol in  Albany, NY on Monday June 29, 2009.
Kamrass/Times Union
Breakaway Democratic Senator Pedro Espada on the floor of the Senate chamber during a short Republican session, in the Capitol in Albany, NY on Monday June 29, 2009.
Soundview Healthcare Network, whose President and CEO is Senator  Pedro Espada, Jr., has been linked to the controversy.
Chu for News
Soundview Healthcare Network, whose President and CEO is Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., has been linked to the controversy.

New York's five mob families - the Luchese, Gambino, Bonanno, Genovese and Colombo clans - will have to make some room.

Say hello to the Espada organization out of the Bronx.

In an astonishing civil suit unveiled Tuesday, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charged that Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and 19 relatives or officials of his Soundview HealthCare Network have looted more than $14 million from the government-funded nonprofit since 2005.

If proved, the actions of Espada and his associates would mark a new low for brazenness and greed in a city that has seen its share of notorious poverty pimp operations.

No official at the White Plains Road headquarters of Soundview would talk with the press Tuesday. Espada started the center 32 years ago, turned it into this political and financial base, and is still president and CEO.

A big billboard outside shows the smiling founder surrounded by neighborhood children and is emblazoned with the slogan, "With You Every Step of the Way."

Well, not every step, Cuomo says.

It's not just that Espada paid himself $1.7 million in wages and an additional $900,000 in unjustified personal expenditures since 2005 on top of a $9 million deferred compensation deal.

Or that Soundview paid for Espada's Mercedes-Benz and car insurance, plus $2,500 a month for a Bronx apartment for him so he could claim a local residence and run for office - even though his main home is in Westchester County.

What is truly breathtaking is the sheer number of relatives Espada put on the Soundview payroll and on its rubber-stamp board of directors.

Start with his three sons.

The eldest, Pedro Gautier Espada, received $776,000 from Soundview since 2005, plus a $28,000 loan he never paid back, plus a corporate credit card. The son's salaries came from both Soundview and the private for-profit company he ran, Espada Management Co., which also happened to have a contract for nearly $400,000 annually to provide Soundview's janitorial services.

A second son, Alejandro Espada, got $430,000 from Soundview since 2005; the third, Romero Espada, received $190,000.

Then there's Jeanette Torres, the mother of Sen. Espada's grandson. She received more than $300,000 as a Soundview employee. Torres also ran another firm Sen. Espada founded, Platinum Placement Service. It got $35,000 one year to call Soundview patients and remind them of their appointments.

Meanwhile, Edwin Miranda, Espada's cousin, received $145,000; Elena Espada, the senator's cousin, brought in $250,000; Lissette Espada, his daughter-in-law, got $95,000.

Victor Feliciano, Espada's uncle, was employed by Soundview and also served on its board of directors. As did John Feliciano, another uncle.

And the list goes on.

No one will deny Pedro Espada Jr. puts family first. The problem is, Cuomo charges, he stole public money to do it. Maybe this explains how he became majority leader of the Albany rackets.

Let's see how long Espada remains head of his family.

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

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