Sunday, April 22, 2012

Espada  Embezzled Trial: Used AMEX Corporate Card at His Own ATM

A major trial in a courtroom shows that the State or the Federal governments, share some of the theatrical characteristic of a stage play. Most stage plays take place in three acts. This brings me to the drama being played at the Federal Court House in Brooklyn, in the case against former New York State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., and his son Pedro Gautier Espada, for embezzlement of the Soundview Health Care Facility in one of the poorest areas of the Bronx.

Act One: The government unleashed to the jury a mountain of documents, that the FBI obtained when they raided the Soundview Health Care Center.

Act2: The Defense presents its case.

Act3: The judge reads the charges to the jury. When the defense rest their case, the judge will tell the jury the particulars of the charges, and the jury will began their deliberation until they reach an unanimous verdict.

Following is some of the key evidence the prosecutors put on the records presented jurors.

1-"Greedy".  Former State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and his son looted their Bronx medical charity of “more than $500,000” to spend “$60,000 on sushi and lobster” dinners, and “thousands and thousands of dollars” on spa treatments, luxury cars, flowers and political campaigns, a federal prosecutor charged.

2-“They stole it to spend on themselves and their family, and they lied to cover it up,” prosecutor Carolyn Porkorny said about Espada Jr. and son Pedro Gautier’s use of the Soundview Health Care Network non-profit charity as a personal piggy bank. 

3-Pedro Espada Jr. always kept it “All in the Family” at his Bronx medical charity, a damning witness testified at his embezzlement trial. The ex-State Senate Majority leader crammed more than a dozen relatives, cronies, willing enablers -- even his sons’ baby mamas -- onto the payroll of his Soundview Healthcare Network, former Soundview personnel boss Maria Cruz told jurors in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Among them were receipts showing that the ex-State Senator and his wife, Connie, used the company credit card of the Soundview Healthcare Network nonprofit.  Espada ran to buy thousands of dollars worth of window shades, fencing, garage doors and stones that all were shipped to the couple’s Westchester County home from 2006 to 2008.

5-Pedro Espada Jr. used $15,000 of his Bronx nonprofit’s money so he and his family could live it up at a luxurious beach-side Puerto Rico resort, prosecutors revealed.
That cash covered the Espada clan’s stay in a San Juan hotel suite, two other rooms, meals at resort restaurants, minibar charges, room service and “resort fees,” a witness testified in Brooklyn federal court.

The Espadas’ two-bedroom suite alone cost about $9,000 for five nights — and a single meal at The Palm restaurant during the trip cost $478.38, a witness testified.
Espada also rang up seven minibar charges, including one dip in the fridge for $109.24.

At the same time that the taxpayer-funded Soundview Healthcare Network was paying his and his relatives’ expenses, he collected $1,500 worth of “per diem” payments from Soundview for the November 2008 Puerto Rico stay at El San Juan Hotel and Casino.

6-“Happy birthday, my sweetheart”
Former State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. got all teary-eyed yesterday as his former girl-Friday told jurors how he looted a nonprofit charity’s coffers to pay for a big birthday bash and presents for his wife in 2008.
Asked about how she felt about Espada, former-secretary Norma Ortiz said, “Like he was my brother.”
At that, Espada’s eyes welled and he put his face in his hands in Brooklyn federal court.
Despite her still-warm feelings, Ortiz, 67, provided damning testimony against her former boss, including revelations that on April 17, 2008, Espada’s wife, Connie, received a $522.95 spa-treatment gift card paid with the American Express card of Soundview Health Care Network, the Espada-controlled and taxpayer-funded nonprofit.
The prosecutors, Todd Kaminsky, Carolyn Porkony, and Roger Burlingame, presented to the court and jurors evidence showing how the Espada family used the Soundview Health Care Network, American Express card at their own ATM.
While the community residents struggle to put food in their table, the Espada family were feasting in luxury restaurants in New York City, Westchester and Puerto Rico.

On Friday, April 20, the prosecutors wrapped their case.

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Act 2: The defense introduced their first witness
Their first witness was Cynthia Prorok, a management consultant who audits community health-care centers for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
But she testified that Soundview officials were highly reluctant to answer her questions about the center’s operation.

“It was a very tense environment. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife,” she said. “It was very controlled. It was like being in an episode of ‘The Sopranos.’ ”
Act 2 to be continued on Monday.

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