Former New York State Senator And City Council Member Hiram Monserrate Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To Two Years In Prison For Fraud
Monserrate Financed His State Senate Campaign with New York City Tax Dollars
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that HIRAM MONSERRATE, a former member of the New York State Senate and the New York City Council (“City Council”), was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to two years in prison for fraud offenses committed while he was a member of the New York City Council related to his misappropriation of approximately $100,000 in City Council discretionary funds that he directed to a non-profit organization he controlled to fund his 2006 New York State Senate campaign. MONSERRATE pled guilty in May 2012 and was sentenced by U. S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Hiram Monserrate helped to underwrite his political ambitions with money that was intended to benefit those in need, and he corrupted his office in the process. He stands in a long line of recent public officials whose crimes have undermined the public’s confidence in its elected officials. His sentence should serve as a reminder that public officials who break the law will be forced to answer to the public they betrayed, and they will be punished.”
According to court filings and statements made in court:
From 2002 to 2008, MONSERRATE was a member of the New York City Council and represented New York City’s 21st Council District, which includes the Corona, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights sections of Queens.
As a member of the City Council, MONSERRATE was allocated a certain amount of City Council discretionary funding, which was drawn annually from New York City tax revenues to support local initiatives by community-based, non-profit organizations. One of the non-profit organizations that MONSERRATE designated as a recipient of the City Council’s discretionary funds was the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, Inc. (“LIBRE”), a tax-exempt organization that was based in his district. LIBRE was supposed to use the city funds to, among other things, run various community programs, including job search and job training workshops.
In 2005 and 2006, MONSERRATE directed approximately $300,000 in discretionary funds to LIBRE. In 2006, while a member of the City Council, MONSERRATE ran for a seat in the New York State Senate. He used approximately $100,000 of the funds he had directed to LIBRE to finance his 2006 campaign for the New York State Senate, a campaign which ultimately failed. Specifically, MONSERRATE directed that LIBRE fraudulently use the City Council discretionary funds in three distinct ways:
- While seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run for New York State Senate, MONSERRATE directed certain LIBRE employees to perform work on behalf of his political campaign, for which LIBRE paid them thousands of dollars.
- In 2006, after LIBRE used its discretionary funds to conduct a voter registration drive in the Senate district where MONSERRATE was campaigning, MONSERRATE directed LIBRE to create a database of the registered voters and provide it to his Senate campaign. Because LIBRE deliberately delayed providing the same information to the New York State Board of Elections until shortly before the voting deadline, MONSERRATE gained an unfair advantage in the campaign by being the only candidate aware of the individuals LIBRE registered to vote.
- In June and July of 2006, MONSERRATE directed LIBRE to use its discretionary funds to pay workers to gather signatures of registered voters on petitions designating him as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for State Senate for the 13th Senate District. LIBRE used City Council discretionary funds to pay workers to canvass residents of the 13th Senate District on MONSERRATE’s behalf.
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In addition to the prison term, Judge McMahon sentenced MONSERRATE, 45, of Jackson Heights, Queens, to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $79,434.49 in restitution/forfeiture and a $200 special assessment fee.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the New York City Department of Investigation and thanked the office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown for its assistance with the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brent S. Wible and Carrie H. Cohen are in charge of the prosecution.