Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hiram Monserrate, disgraced state Senator, surrenders over possible charity-election conflict

Hiram Monserrate won the Senate seat in 2008, but was kicked out earlier this year.
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Hiram Monserrate won the Senate seat in 2008, but was kicked out earlier this year.

Disgraced state Senator Hiram Monserrate has surrendered to face charges that he used the resources of a charity he controlled to campaign for the state Senate, the Daily News has learned.

Prosecutors charge that Monserrate used a non-profit called LIBRE (Latino Initiative for Better Resources & Empowerment) to run for office.

Monserrate steered hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars into Libre when he was still a Queens City Councilman.

Monserrate won the Senate seat in 2008, but was kicked out earlier this year after being convicted of a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his girlfriend.

He tried to regain his seat in March, but lost to Jose Peralta.

After his defeat, Manhattan federal prosecutors subpoenaed and questioned several former members of his Senate staff, including Wayne Mahlke and Luis Castro, about Monserrate's dealings with LIBRE, a source said.

Another source said LIBRE checks paid for some of Monserrate's campaign expenses.

Several members of Monserrate's legislative staff have also worked for LIBRE, including City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, who was once his Council chief of staff.

Ferreras was LIBRE's chairwoman for a time, when it handled a program to register 1,000 voters. A source familiar with the probe said LIBRE workers turned over registration cards at the last minute to keep his competitors in the dark.

Ferreras declined to comment, as did the city Department of Investigation, the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office and Monserrate's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina.

One source said Javier Cardenas, a former LIBRE executive director, last year gave Queens prosecutors copies of emails between him and Monserrate detailing the use of the nonprofit for political purposes.

Cardenas could not be reached for comment.

gsmith@nydailynews.com

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