Last Updated: 12:56 AM, March 23, 2012
Pedro Espada Jr. pressured a videographer to call his grandson’s birthday party a “children’s community outreach” event to duck paying for the DVDs from his own pocket, a witness testified yesterday.
“I was outraged,” Evelyn Lopez said in Brooklyn federal court during the corruption trial for the disgraced ex-state Senate leader and his son.
Lopez shot video of the boy’s first birthday party at Espada’s Mamaroneck home in April 2007 but had a hard time getting paid, she said.
So she sent an invoice to Norma Ortiz, Espada’s top assistant, who replied in an e-mail on the Bronx pol’s behalf that the invoice needed to be changed so that the lavish bash was called a “children’s community outreach” event.
But Lopez refused.
“The invoice is correct. The event was in a private home, and it was for Mr. Espada’s grandson’s 1st birthday,” Lopez replied in an e-mail. “So, as you can see I cannot change the invoice. (It would be dishonest.)”
Lopez went on to say in the e-mail that she gave Espada a 50 percent discount — charging him only $400.
She got a check a day later from Community Expansion Development Corp., the cleaning company controlled by the Espadas that had a lucrative contract with Espada’s Soundview Healthcare Network
Lopez also took video of a 2006 birthday party for one of Espada’s grandchildren and was paid $500 with a check from CEDC, she said.
The testimony came as federal prosecutors continued to build their case that Espada and his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, used their health-care network as a personal piggy bank.
They allegedly funneled money from Soundview — which ran a clinic for the poor in The Bronx — through CEDC to fund a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars, pricey restaurant dinners and spa treatments.
Sixteen witnesses testified yesterday, many saying they got checks from CEDC for such personal expenses as private-school tuition payments, office space for Espada’s campaign — and even for work on a ghostwritten autobiography.
Federal prosecutors claim Espada and his son looted more than $500,000 from Soundview, a nonprofit that is supposed to use its government-supported budget to care for poor Bronx residents.