Saturday, May 5, 2012

Off to the slammer

Corrupt Hiram guilty

Last Updated: 5:01 AM, May 5, 2012
Posted: 2:28 AM, May 5, 2012

A crooked pol who avoided prison time for beating his girlfriend won’t catch the same break for swindling city taxpayers.
Disgraced ex-state Sen. Hiram Monserrate pleaded guilty yesterday to corruption charges yesterday in a deal that calls for him to spend 21 to 27 months behind bars.
Monserrate, 44, admitted scamming more than $100,000 in City Council “slush” funds approved by Speaker Christine Quinn to help fund a failed campaign for higher office while he served on the council in 2006.
Reading from a prepared statement, Monserrate said he got the city to fund a nonprofit known as the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, or LIBRE.
FRAUD: Hiram Monser-rate (above) leaves court yesterday after pleading guilty to using city funds authorized by Speaker Christine Quinn for his election campaign.
Dan Brinzac
FRAUD: Hiram Monser-rate (above) leaves court yesterday after pleading guilty to using city funds authorized by Speaker Christine Quinn for his election campaign.
Christine Quinn
Christine Quinn
The group got about $300,000 in public money during 2005 and 2006, ostensibly so it could work with “churches, civil- rights organizations and community organizations . . . to counsel and assist individuals to secure their legal rights.”
“I subsequently agreed with a LIBRE employee that LIBRE would use some of those discretionary funds to do certain things that I knew would benefit my campaign,” Monserrate said in Manhattan federal court.
“And this activity was not disclosed to the City of New York.”
He added: “At the time, I knew that this conduct was wrong and not legal, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Monserrate’s admissions came after prosecutor Brent Wible detailed his crimes, which included paying the salaries of “certain LIBRE employees who spent most, if not all, of the summer of 2006 working on his campaign” for the state Senate.
In addition, the Queens Democrat used taxpayer money to fund a “politically partisan voter-registration drive,” and paid people to circulate petitions to get him a spot on the Democratic primary ballot, Wible said.
Wible also outlined the mountain of evidence against Monserrate, saying two former executive directors of LIBRE were prepared to testify against him, along with several former members of his council staff and “a number of residents of Queens” who were paid by LIBRE to conduct campaign work.
Monserrate narrowly lost his 2006 bid for the state Senate, but won the seat two years later.
He was booted from office in 2010 after being convicted of roughing up his girlfriend during a jealous rage.
He was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to undergo domestic-abuse counseling and perform community service in that case.
Monserrate had been scheduled for trial in June on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud, which each carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
Judge Colleen McMahon, who noted that she isn’t bound by terms of the plea deal, scheduled sentencing for Sept. 14, and allowed Monserrate to remain free on $500,000 bond.
Monserrate, who wore a navy suit and sported a fresh haircut, declined comment afterward, and went to the courthouse cafeteria with his court-appointed lawyer for a lunch of tuna salad over greens and hard-boiled eggs.
Monserrate is still on probation until Dec. 4 for assaulting girlfriend Karla Giraldo, but he won’t face any consequences for yesterday’s guilty pleas because the charges covered “an event that occurred prior to his being sentenced to probation,” Probation Department spokesman Ryan Dodge said.

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