Friday, October 12, 2012


Disgraced pol Pedro Espada pleads guilty to tax evasion; son Pedro Gautier Espada pleads guilty to theft

Espada faces up to 10 years in prison on each of his four theft convictions, and up to three years on the tax charge

Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012, 10:17 PM










Former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., arriving at Brooklyn Federal Court on October 12th, 2012,  where he pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

Jesse Ward/for New York Daily News

Former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., arriving at Brooklyn Federal Court on October 12th, 2012, where he pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

After nearly two decades of dodging indictments and investigations, disgraced Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada finally said the words: “Guilty, your honor.”

As part of a package plea deal with his son, the once-defiant Democrat pleaded guilty Friday to filing a false tax return that omitted the more than $400,000 he stole from his federally funded Soundview Health Network.

“Yes your honor, I accept responsibility,” Espada said in Brooklyn Federal Court. “Guilty, your honor.”

His son, Pedro Gautier Espada, dressed like his dad in a navy blue suit, pleaded guilty on two of the more than eight criminal charges he faced in connection with the scheme. He pleaded to filing a false tax return on 2009 earnings and ripping off the network.

Because of the sheer brazenness of Espada’s crimes, sources said it is unlikely the former pol will avoid hard time.

Outside the courthouse, the usually cocky Espada — who during the trial had belittled prosecutors and waved rosary beads to ward off the federal government’s “evil spiritual powers” — was replaced by humbler version of himself.

“I want to thank so many people, not only in New York City, but in the nation, that gave us their prayers and support,” he said.

“We have accepted responsibility and are moving on with our lives. I feel blessed today as I have in the past.”

Pedro Gautier, 38 — who had not made any public statements during the protracted scandal — stood silently as his suddenly repentant pop addressed reporters.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Mott Haven, the 58-year-old Espada spent much of his 20-year political career dodging legal charges and fending off scandals.

But he got the smirk wiped off his face in May when he was convicted on four of the eight charges he faced for stealing $448,000 from Soundview between 2005 and 2009.

Prosecutors said Espada used the money to lavish luxuries upon himself that included fancy dinners, expensive vacations, home improvements and family parties.

The jury deadlocked on the other four charges Espada faced, along with all eight charges against his son.

They both faced a retrial, along with additional charges in Manhattan Federal Court for filing false tax returns, mainly because they did not claim the money they stole.

Now with the guilty pleas, all cases against the Espadas are closed.

“We can finally declare the Espada era over,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said outside the courthouse.

Espada faces up to 10 years in prison on each of his four theft convictions, and up to three years on the tax charge, plus $1.2 million in fines and penalties.

Most likely, Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block will slap Espada with a sentence of anywhere from 70 to 87 months, based on the sentencing guidelines.

But Block didn’t make any promises Friday.

“I cannot tell you anything today as to what the sentence will be,” Block said. “The range may be less, it may be higher. All that is going to be my call.”

Espada’s son is likely to be placed on probation, sources said.

Both Espadas are expected to argue at sentencing that they should not go to prison because of their good works, and that the Soundview clinic they looted provided medical services to poor people in the Bronx for more than three decades.

But prosecutors proved Espada stacked Soundview’s board with cronies so he could pillage the nonprofit.

In recent years, the clinic missed payrolls, couldn’t afford to replace aging medical equipment and was forced this year to stop seeing patients when it couldn’t pay its malpractice insurance.

Soundview was closed in July and the space on White Plains Road is now occupied by the Stevenson Family Health Center.

“This is a whole new business here,” a manager, who declined to give her name, said when asked about the Espada guilty plea.

“We have nothing to do with Espada.”

Then she hung up.

All traces of Espada inside the old Soundview building are gone and the walls have a fresh coat of white paint. It still has a faded red awning, but the new name is tacked over the old one.

And there was little sympathy for Espada among the patients venturing in and out of the new health center.

“Thank God,” said 36-year-old Matila Perez, a recently laid off teachers assistant who was waiting to see a doctor. “He was stealing from poor income people. I’ll be doing a dance outside the courthouse” when he’s sentenced.

Tabrese Wright, 34, said she used to take her three kids to the Soundview clinic.

“The whole thing’s unfortunate,” said Wright. “When this (clinic) closed down, it left a lot of people with no place to go. It’s terrible what he did. He should go to jail.”

In addition to the criminal charges, the elder Espada remains the target of yet another ongoing probe.

Gov. Cuomo, when he was attorney general, launched a civil probe into Espada as part of a crackdown into public corruption. Espada charged back that the investigation was politically motived, and said Cuomo was trying to take away his “manhood.”

In a statement released Friday, Cuomo took some satisfaction in Espada’s fall.

“Mr. Espada’s reaction was to lash out again and again and to falsely disparage and accuse my office of engaging in a politically motivated witch hunt,” said Cuomo. “Today, I give Mr. Espada the last word — when he says, ‘guilty.’ ”

In 1998, Espada was indicted for allegedly using $260,000 in Medicaid money intended to support Soundview for his political campaign. He was acquitted at trial.

Then in 2002, Espada was caught trying to direct $745,000 in pork-barrel grants to Soundview. The grants were later cancelled.

Two years later, seven of Espada’s Soundview workers were charged with diverting food intended for AIDS patients to an Espada political rally. Three wound up pleading guilty.

And Espada, who claimed he lived in a Bedford Park co-op, was discovered to be living in a $700,000 house in tony Mamaroneck. His next address could be a federal prison.

With Tanyanika Samuels
jmarzulli@nydailynews.com
Post a Comment