Sunday, May 26, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: FBI investigating retainer fees charged by Sen. John Sampson to businessmen

When constituents and others asked the Brooklyn state senator for help, he allegedly made them hire him on as their lawyer, charging fees of $10,000. Sampson was busted on unrelated charges of embezzling $440,000 in escrow funds to finance a campaign run in 2005.

Comments (13)
Updated: Sunday, May 26, 2013, 2:30 AM

























State Sen. John Sampson is being investigated by the FBI for charging 'retainers' to businessmen with whom he helped secure land.

Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News

State Sen. John Sampson is being investigated by the FBI for charging 'retainers' to businessmen with whom he helped secure land.

For elected officials, it’s part of the job: assisting constituents with problems.
When some people sought the help of Brooklyn state Sen. John Sampson, he allegedly demanded that they hire him as their lawyer.
The FBI is investigating whether Sampson broke the law by seeking and receiving retainer fees from at least two businessmen who sought his assistance in dealing with the government, the Daily News has learned.
RELATED: IN NEW YORK, IT'S OK TO PRACTICE LAW AND BE A MEMBER OF THE STATE LEGISLATURE
In both cases, the FBI taped the businessmen discussing their involvement with Sampson, sources say.
Three weeks ago the FBI busted Sampson, 47, on unrelated charges of embezzling $440,000 in escrow funds from foreclosure sales to help finance his failed 2005 campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney. It was the latest in a stunning parade of arrests of state lawmakers for alleged wrongdoing.
Former State Senator Shirley Huntley secretly recorded other politicians — including Sen. John Sampson — in a bid for leniency in her own corruption scandal.

John Minchillo/AP

Former State Senator Shirley Huntley secretly recorded other politicians — including Sen. John Sampson — in a bid for leniency in her own corruption scandal.

At the time, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch made a point of noting that her investigation of Sampson was ongoing.
RELATED: EMBEZZLEMENT CASE REVEALS FLAW IN OVERSIGHT OF FORECLOSED PROPERTY SALES
Sources familiar with the investigation say a focus of their inquiry is the “retainer fees” Sampson has demanded for the kind of work that other elected officials typically perform as part of their jobs.
Sampson was once one of Albany’s most powerful politicians, rising to the top of the Senate’s leadership in 2009 after Democrats became a majority in the chamber. He lost power two years later when Democrats lost their control of the Senate.
And like dozens of other state legislators, Sampson works on the side as an attorney. His Senate biography notes he represents clients in “real estate, criminal and election matters.”
RELATED: EX-STATE SEN. SHIRLEY HUNTLEY WORKED AS GOVERNMENT RAT: COURT DOCS
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said that her investigation of State Senator John Sampson is ongoing. Sampson was busted earlier this month on charges that he embezzled $440,000.

Jesse Ward for New York Daily News

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said that her investigation of State Senator John Sampson is ongoing. Sampson was busted earlier this month on charges that he embezzled $440,000.

Neither Sampson nor his lawyer, Zachary Carter, responded to written questions about the retainer fees.
One of those questioned by the FBI, sources say, is Brooklyn auto dealer Lilaahar (Sammy) Bical, owner of Kristal Auto Mall, one of the biggest Cadillac dealers on the East Coast.
Last year the FBI confronted Bical about Sampson’s role in helping him eliminate hurdles blocking Bical’s plan to buy a city-owned plot on Flatbush Ave. near the Belt Parkway.
RELATED: SAMPSON NOT 1ST STATE SENATE LEADER TO BE CHARGED
Bical wanted the land to expand his dealership. But he faced opposition from some local politicians, including then-Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), who was trying to help developer Bruce Ratner build a shopping mall on the same property (Kruger was later indicted in an unrelated case and is now in prison).
Seeking help, Bical turned to Sampson. The senator requested a $10,000 “retainer fee” up front, and Bical wrote the check, sources say. Soon after, Sampson arranged a sit-down with Bloomberg administration officials at City Hall.
Kristal Auto Mall on Kings Highway is owned by Sammy Bical, who allegedly paid Sen. John Sampson $10,000 for a an eventual sit-down meeting with the Bloomberg administration that led him to buy $4.2 million for a plot of land to expand the dealership.

Jeff Bachner for New York Daily News

Kristal Auto Mall on Kings Highway is owned by Sammy Bical, who allegedly paid Sen. John Sampson $10,000 for a an eventual sit-down meeting with the Bloomberg administration that led him to buy $4.2 million for a plot of land to expand the dealership.

A spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp., which oversaw the land sale, confirmed that Sampson “provided legal counsel to Mr. Bical at a certain point and did meet with EDC a few times.”
RELATED: POLS SCRAMBLE OVER AUDIO IN SHIRLEY HUNTLEY UNDERCOVER STING
A city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the meetings as “an awkward situation because he’s not just a lawyer — he’s also a senator.”
The meetings occurred in early 2012, and in February the city sold Bical the land he had long sought. Bical paid $4.2 million, $200,000 less than the city’s own appraisers said it was worth.
When the FBI questioned Bical about this, agents played a recording of him talking to Sampson about obtaining the city land for the bigger dealership, sources said.
RELATED: SHIRLEY HUNTLEY SENTENCED TO YEAR AND DAY
Sammy Bical (right) stands outside his dealership in Brooklyn.

Craig Warga/New York Daily News

Sammy Bical (right) stands outside his dealership in Brooklyn.

On Friday the Guyanese-born Bical declined to come out of his office at Kristal Motors, on Kings Highway, to speak with a Daily News reporter. His attorney did not return calls.
Another businessman who paid Sampson’s fee is Roopnarine (Rudy) Singh, owner of MSN Air Service, a company that hauls freight for airlines at JFK International Airport.
For years Singh tried unsuccessfully to get the Port Authority, which runs the airport, to lease him more space so he could expand MSN’s business. He appealed to several local politicians for help, without success.
RELATED: NY CORRUPTION PROBE: NAMES OF 7 OFFICIALS RECORDED RELEASED
So last year Singh reached out to Sampson, and even though JFK is outside Sampson’s Brooklyn district, the senator promised to handle the situation — for a $10,000 “retainer fee,” sources said.
There was no written retainer agreement and Sampson was vague about exactly what he would do for the money, one source said.
The site in Brooklyn that is being developed by Sammy Bical, who is allegedly involved in a bribery scheme with State Senator John Sampson.

Craig Warga/New York Daily News

The site in Brooklyn that is being developed by Sammy Bical, who is allegedly involved in a bribery scheme with State Senator John Sampson.

Sampson eventually arranged a meeting with a colleague, then state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Queens), whose district included JFK, according to sources.
RELATED: THIEVES OF A FEATHER
Singh met with Sampson at Huntley’s modest red-sided home in Jamaica, Queens.
What Sampson and Singh did not know is that Huntley recorded their conversation at the request of the FBI, under an arrangement that she hoped would lead to leniency at her sentencing for an unrelated charge of stealing $88,000 from a tax-payer funded charity she controlled.
According to prosecutors, Huntley demanded $1,000 from Singh in return for her help, even though the FBI was listening in.
RELATED: ALBANY SLEAZE KEEPS OOZING
Former Brooklyn Senator Carl Kruger tried to block Bical's dealership from securing the land it will expand on to, but was himself indicted on an unrelated case.

James Keivom/New York Daily News

Former Brooklyn Senator Carl Kruger tried to block Bical's dealership from securing the land it will expand on to, but was himself indicted on an unrelated case.

Singh’s attorney, Ron Kuby, said Friday his client “retained John Sampson as an attorney to assist him in expanding his business and renting additional space from the Port Authority. Mr. Singh never engaged in any unlawful transactions nor did he pay a bribe to any official.”
Last week the FBI also questioned the owner of a liquor store on Fulton Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, about Sampson’s financial ties to the establishment, sources told The News.
The partner, Jaichand Singh, was secretly recorded by the bureau discussing the store’s finances, the sources said.
Sampson listed himself as a “shareholder” in the store, Gateway Wines & Spirits, on his 2011 financial disclosure form. Yet Sampson is not listed as a principal on Gateway’s state liquor license.
Jaichand Singh did not return calls seeking comment.
After Sampson’s May 6 arrest on the embezzlement charges, prosecutors said they offered him a deal to plead guilty to one count each of embezzlement and obstruction of justice that would allow him slightly less prison time.
Sampson’s lawyer, Carter, has said he discussed settling the foreclosure charges with the U.S. attorney for months, but both sides couldn’t come to acceptable terms.
Now, sources say, Sampson could be facing additional charges
gsmith@nydailynews.com
Post a Comment