Former Bronx City Councilman, Larry Seabrook, Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To Five Years In Prison For Public Corruption Crimes
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that former New York City Council Member LARRY SEABROOK, who represented the 12th Council District in the Bronx, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to five years in prison after being convicted on nine counts for public corruption crimes in a July 2012 jury trial. SEABROOK was sentenced by Federal District Judge Deborah A. Batts, who also presided over his trial.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Councilman Larry Seabrook sacrificed the public trust on the altar of greed. He was a flagrant and serial abuser of City Council discretionary funds in a far too familiar New York tale of corruption. Today’s sentence finally vindicates the interests of the constituents whose trust he so casually violated by his fraud. We remain committed to making those who are corrupted by power pay the price, and the public can expect more arrests of politicians who have not learned this lesson.”
According to the Indictment, other court documents, and the evidence presented at trial:
SEABROOK served as a member of the New York City Council (the “Council”) from January 2002 until his July 2012 conviction in this case. In that capacity, his official duties included: voting on legislation, representing and advocating for the interests of his constituents, and allocating New York City funds to non-profit organizations.
The Council Discretionary Funds Scheme
From 2002 through 2009, SEABROOK directed numerous city contracts valued at more than $2 million to purportedly independent non-profit organizations supposedly doing community-benefit work in the north Bronx. In fact, however, SEABROOK controlled these non-profit organizations, negotiating the leasing of their office space, creating their budgets, and making their personnel decisions.
The non-profit organizations SEABROOK controlled were funded exclusively by funds allocated by the Council, primarily at the direction of SEABROOK. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in Council funds received by the non-profit organizations were disbursed among SEABROOK’s girlfriend, brother, two sisters, and nephew.
SEABROOK knew these non-profit organizations were not doing enough legitimate work to justify the funds they were receiving from the Council, so to continue the City’s disbursement of funds, SEABROOK and others made misrepresentations to the City and to the Council. Specifically, they failed to disclose that the non-profit organizations were associated with SEABROOK, that the organizations lacked the ability to perform the contracts being awarded to them, and that the funds allocated to the organizations would benefit SEABROOK’s friends and family. SEABROOK and others also made false and inflated claims to the City and to the Council about the expenses that the non-profit organizations were incurring.
Furthermore, rather than leasing space directly from the landlords of the properties they used, SEABROOK arranged for his non-profit organizations to enter into fraudulent and inflated subleases with another organization he controlled (called the African-American Bronx Unity Day Parade, or the “Unity Day Parade”) which in turn leased the space directly from the actual landlords. Each year, three of SEABROOK’s non-profit organizations paid the Unity Day Parade a substantially greater amount than the rent paid to the actual landlord. In connection with this rent scheme alone, SEABROOK and his co-conspirators defrauded the City of more than $95,000.
The FDNY Diversity Program Scheme
In the summer of 2005, in an effort to increase diversity in the ranks of the New York City Fire Department (the “FDNY”), the Council allocated approximately $1.5 million to, among other things, recruit and train minorities to pass the firefighter examination.
In 2006, SEABROOK recommended to the Council that one of the non-profit organizations he controlled, the North East Bronx Redevelopment Corporation (“NEBRC”), receive approximately $300,000 of funds that the Council had allocated to the FDNY diversity initiative through John Jay College of Criminal Justice (the “College”). The Council allocated $750,000 to the College, and directed the College to subcontract with NEBRC in the amount of $300,000.
SEABROOK made these recommendations even though he knew that the New York Department of Small Business Services (the “NYDSBS”) had audited NEBRC’s contracts to receive Council discretionary funding and found widespread financial mismanagement and accounting improprieties, as well as a failure to achieve the performance goals set by those contracts. Furthermore, SEABROOK and others did not disclose to the Council that the NYDSBS had identified serious problems at NEBRC, that the non-profit was under investigation by the City’s Department of Investigation, or that the funds allocated to NEBRC would benefit individuals close to SEABROOK. Although NEBRC conducted some limited recruitment activity in connection with the FDNY diversity initiative, it did not provide any of the mentoring, training, or physical conditioning that it had represented it would provide. In fact, the Council funds that NEBRC received for the FDNY diversity initiative were disbursed to, among others, SEABROOK’s girlfriend; SEABROOK’s sister, who served as a “consultant” for the initiative and was paid $10,000 to write a six-page report; and SEABROOK’s nephew.
The “Jobs To Build On Program” Scheme
In 2007, the Council allocated millions of dollars to the Jobs To Build On Program (“JTBO”), a job training and employment initiative spearheaded by SEABROOK and others. The Consortium for Worker Education (the “CWE”) was eventually charged with the responsibility of administering JTBO funds.
The CWE sought to identify community-based organizations with which it could partner to more effectively provide employment and training services throughout the City in connection with the JTBO initiative. SEABROOK recommended that the CWE partner with NEBRC, falsely representing that it was an entity with which the CWE could contract to effectively provide recruitment for employment and training services. The CWE entered into a $350,000 contract with NEBRC.
On a number of occasions when a program coordinator for the CWE made an unannounced visit to NEBRC’s office, the office was closed. The CWE also found that NEBRC grossly underperformed the services it was obligated to provide under the contract and provided inadequate or false documentation in support of the services it was allegedly providing and the expenses it was incurring pursuant to its contract. Again, the Council funds that NEBRC received for the JTBO initiative were disbursed to, among others, SEABROOK’s girlfriend and SEABROOK’s nephew.
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In addition to his prison term, SEABROOK, 61, of the Bronx, New York, was sentenced to two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $619, 715.24 in restitution and to forfeit $418, 252.53, to be returned to the City as part of the restitution. He was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee.
In sentencing SEABROOK, Judge Batts remarked: “[Seabrook] held himself above the law, and betrayed the public trust.”
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the New York City Department of Investigation in this case.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Karl Metzner, Randall Jackson, and Steve Lee are in charge of the prosecution.