Saturday, March 17, 2012

Photos show Bronx pol Espada partying on taxpayer dime: feds

Photos show Bronx pol Espada partying on taxpayer dime: feds
Photos show Bronx pol Espada partying on taxpayer dime: feds
  • Here’s the birthday-party pony — and the purported pilfering, pot-bellied porker who paid for it. Disgraced Bronx politician Pedro Espada Jr. looks jolly in one of a slew of photographs entered into evidence at his embezzlement trial. Espada is...

Espada turned family tree into money tree at tax-funded clinic: ex-staffer

Last Updated: 6:47 AM, March 16, 2012

Posted: 12:40 AM, March 16, 2012

Pedro Espada Jr. ran his taxpayer-funded health clinic like a family business — and it made him filthy rich, a devastating prosecution witness said yesterday at the ex-pol’s federal corruption trial.

The former state Senate majority leader loaded more than a dozen relatives, cronies, hangers-on — and even his sons’ baby mamas — onto the payroll of the Soundview Healthcare Network that he founded and controlled.

By doing so, the once-powerful Democrat made it child’s play to illegally tap the Bronx nonprofit’s coffers for more than $500,000 to fund his lavish lifestyle — including $100,000 alone for dining, including sushi and lobster dinners — while getting paid a king’s ransom in salary and promised severance, prosecutors charge.

Spencer Burnett
Former Soundview personnel boss Maria Cruz testified in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.
Spencer Burnett
WHAT’S HE SO HAPPY ABOUT? A beaming Pedro Espada Jr. arrives for his corruption trial at the Brooklyn federal courthouse yesterday with wife Connie and his bodyguard.

In one case, an Espada relative’s boyfriend was placed on Soundview’s board of directors — which OK’d Espada’s questionable salary and expenses — despite his utter lack of experience in either non-profits or the health-care industry, former Soundview personnel boss Maria Cruz told Brooklyn federal-court jurors.

“I heard he worked in a restaurant — I think he was a cook,” Cruz deadpanned when prosecutor Todd Kaminsky asked about the man’s résumé.

Cruz also testified that the former state senator’s son and co-defendant in the case, Pedro Gautier Espada, installed vending machines in Soundview’s facilities — and then allegedly pocketed the money collected by those machines, while operating a cleaning company that had a lucrative contract with Soundview.

And Cruz said the elder Espada, because of his awful credit rating, asked her to co-sign a loan for a luxury car he was hoping to buy.

“He wanted to obtain a Bentley. He wanted me to co-sign for him,” Cruz said about the pricey purchase, which eventually fell through.

She later co-signed with him on a loan for a Mercedes-Benz he bought — allegedly with funds illegally siphoned from a cleaning company he and his son controlled.

That company also had a contract with Soundview.

Espada’s wife, Connie, had a fully insured GMC Yukon SUV paid for by Soundview, even when she was no longer an employee, Cruz said.

And Cruz — testifying as part of a nonprosecution agreement with the feds — described photographs showing a birthday party for an Espada relative that the pol allegedly paid for with Soundview funds.

Among those photographs shown jurors was one of a beaming Espada Jr. next to a child who is sitting astride a pony. Others showed goats and someone dressed like the children’s-TV dinosaur Barney.

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