Last Updated: 2:56 PM, July 25, 2012
Posted: 1:08 PM, July 25, 2012
Only minutes after he was released on $1 million bail yesterday, a former New York state legislator called an FBI informant at the center of his bribery case in what appeared to be a possible attempt to obstruct justice, officials said today.
Jimmy Meng, 68, a former Assemblyman who was the first Asian-American to serve in the New York Legislature, reached out to the associate shortly after walking out of the Brooklyn federal courthouse after his arrest by the FBI - even though laws and bail restrictions bar contact with witnesses in his influence-peddling case.
Gregory P. Mango
"We also believe that an associate of [Meng's] also reached out to the cooperating witness," Seifan said at a court hearing.
After hearing of Meng's efforts to speak with the FBI informant, Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak told the former Queens pol that such conduct violates bail restrictions and could be tantamount to witness tampering or obstruction of justice - which are federal crimes.
"Mr. Meng, it is violation of the bond to threaten or influence the testimony of anyone involved in your case," the judge said from the bench.
"If you do it again, you're going to go into jail. Because if I find out that the witness feels intimidated, you're going into custody," Pollak said.
Asked if he understood the warning, Meng whispered, "yes, yes," and hung his head low.
The former legislator - who who served in the Assembly from 2005-2006 and represented Flushing, Queens - is facing charges that solicited $80,000 in bribes from the associate, in exchange for promises that he could make a tax fraud case against his friend disappear - or at least could deliver a reduced sentence by bribing prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
But the associate began secretly working with Brooklyn federal prosecutors and FBI agents probing public corruption and surreptitiously recorded tapes of Meng discussing his bribery scheme, officials say.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors do not believe that Meng ever contacted officials from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to offer a bribe in his friend's tax fraud case was bona fide.
Instead, it appears that Meng was poised simply to cheat his unsuspecting friend out of the money - without delivering on his promises to get the tax case dropped, officials say.
FBI agents arrested Meng yesterday on wire fraud charges after the associate delivered a fruit basket containing several thousand dollars in illicit payments to the former lawmaker's lumber yard.
His arrest is clearly an unwelcome development at a time when his daughter is busy mounting her campaign to win a congressional seat in eastern Queens, where she's running as the Democratic candidate.
Grace Meng - a state Assemblywoman now competing for the seat against city councilman Dan Halloran, a Republican - said in a statement yesterday that she had no knowledge of her father's alleged actions.
Today after appearing at the brief bail hearing, Meng emerged from the federal courthouse accompanied by his wife, but said nothing when asked by reporters about his call to the FBI informant at the center of his bribery case.