Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pedro Espada embezzled from nonprofit Bronx health clinic to buy picket fence for his Westchester dream home, prosecutors charge

Government’s revelations kicked off fifth week of corruption trial

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The Mamaroneck, Westchester County, home of state Senator Pedro Espada.

Showalter Aaron

Pedro Espada's Westchester home.

Aaron Showalter/NY Daily News

Espada outside court.

Ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. embezzled from his nonprofit Bronx health clinic to buy a picket fence for his Westchester dream home and even a pack of chewing gum, prosecutors charged Monday.

A stack of receipts the government submitted into evidence show Espada went on a spending spree with taxpayer money to fix up a luxury house that was not even in his working-class district.

Espada, 58, once the state Senate majority leader, billed his Soundview HealthCare Network for a $697 Home Depot picket fence and a $2,092 garage door, which included the fee for hauling away the old door.

He also spent $4,523 on a front door and a lighted security door, $239 on a water heater and $1,055 on window shades.

None of the purchases were for his clinic, prosecutors charge. Instead, they went to renovate his home on Beechwood Drive in Mamaroneck, prosecutors said.

To illustrate the depths of the disgraced politician’s greed, prosecutors revealed he even charged the taxpayer-funded Soundview for a $1.09 pack of chewing gum and a $9.47 shovel.

The government’s revelations kicked off the fifth week of the corruption trial in Brooklyn Federal Court, in which Espada and his son Pedro G. Espada are facing embezzlement and theft charges.

Espada contends the indictment stems from a political vendetta. Using ignorance as a defense, he and his son claim they relied on advice from the clinic’s accountants and board that billing the nonprofit for personal expenses was okay.

But prosecutors counter he and his son knew exactly what they were doing and tried to cover up their misappropriations with bogus excuses.

They’re accused of using $500,000 in taxpayer money on vacations, luxury cars and fancy dinners, including $20,000 on takeout sushi.

Prosecutors claim Espada’s son was just like his old man, billing a janitorial company owned by Soundview for personal expenses that included dental floss and 25-cent parking-meter fees.

Billing records show that in 2006 the younger Espada bought his wife a $104 black pleated Elie Tahari dress at the Woodbury Commons outlet center in Westchester. But he described the purchase as “office supplies” on billing records to the janitorial company.

He billed the company twice for the same Red Lobster dinner in Connecticut, but included a tip on only one receipt. He also charged the company for a Sunday afternoon lunch at a Westport, Conn., trattoria, claiming it was for workers at the clinic, prosecutors said.

Espada’s son also billed the janitorial company $53 for RiteAid purchases that included dental floss, toothpaste and shaving gel, which he also described as office supplies, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Espada and his son both face up to 10 years in prison.

whutchinson@nydailynews.com

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