Assemblyman Eric Stevenson Found Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court Of Taking More Than $20,000 In Bribes In Exchange For Proposing Legislation And Performing Other Official Acts
Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Robert T. Johnson, the District Attorney for Bronx County, announced that New York State Assemblyman ERIC STEVENSON was found guilty in Manhattan federal court of taking more than $20,000 in bribes from four businessmen in exchange for STEVENSON’s official acts, including drafting, proposing, and agreeing to enact legislation that favored the bribers’ business interests. Specifically, the four businessmen, who sought to operate and construct adult day care centers in the Bronx, paid STEVENSON to sponsor and introduce legislation that would declare a three-year moratorium on the construction of adult day care centers in New York City, but from which their current centers would be exempted, in effect giving the businessmen a monopoly in adult day care centers in the area. In connection with one of the defendants’ adult day care centers on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx (the “Jerome Avenue Center”), in exchange for bribes by the businessmen, STEVENSON, in his official capacity as an Assemblyman, contacted Con Edison and the New York City Department of Buildings at their request. In addition, in exchange for bribes, STEVENSON held public events paid for by the businessmen to recruit senior citizens to attend a second center on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx (the “Westchester Avenue Center”). STEVENSON was convicted after a six-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As a unanimous jury swiftly found, Assemblyman Stevenson brazenly betrayed the public that elected him. Graft and greed are intolerable in Albany, and we will go to trial as often as we have to until government in New York is cleaned up. As Assemblyman Stevenson readies himself to serve a likely prison term, he serves more importantly as a reminder of what happens to politicians who court only cash and throw their oath to the curb.”
Bronx County District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said: "I am grateful that the U.S. Attorney and our office were successful in uncovering and bringing to justice an elected official who betrayed the public trust by offering his vote for sale. It is fortunate that we were able to root out this corruption before this politician could do serious damage to the legislative process."
STEVENSON has served as a member of the New York State Assembly since 2011 representing District 79, which includes various neighborhoods in the Bronx. The four businessmen – Igor Belyansky, Rostislav Belyansky, a/k/a “Slava,” Igor Tsimerman, and David Binman – are individuals who, during 2012 and 2013, were seeking to open and manage adult day care centers in the Bronx, New York, including the Westchester Avenue Center, within STEVENSON’s Assembly District, and the Jerome Avenue Center, within another Assemblyman’s District. During that time period, they paid multiple bribes to STEVENSON in connection with efforts to open and operate both centers.
For example, at a meeting on July 23, 2012, STEVENSON, Belyansky, and Tsimerman discussed the opening of the Westchester Avenue Center. During this meeting, STEVENSON said that on the following Thursday, July 26, 2012, he was “having a night [event]” for “my reelection” and that he needed “support and help like everyone else.” Subsequently, on July 25, 2012, Slava provided a cooperating witness (the “CW”) with a check for $2,000 made out to STEVENSON’s political action committee, which the CW provided to STEVENSON. STEVENSON did not disclose this check as a campaign contribution as required by New York State Law.
At a September 7, 2012 meeting at a steakhouse in the Bronx, Belyansky and Slava offered to pay STEVENSON $10,000 in exchange for calling Con Edison to expedite the installation of a gas line and assisting with obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy from the New York City Buildings Department at the Jerome Avenue Center, and for assistance recruiting senior citizens to attend the Westchester Avenue Center. STEVENSON agreed, but when Belyansky attempted to hand him the $10,000 in an envelope, STEVENSON indicated that he was concerned that there might be surveillance cameras in the restaurant, so waited until he was outside of the restaurant to take the cash bribe. On September 18, 2012, STEVENSON gave the CW a $1,500 cut of the $10,000 bribe in exchange for the CW’s assistance, and promised to pay the CW an additional $500.
On December 27, 2012, the CW met with STEVENSON and showed STEVENSON a copy of an email dated December 26, 2012, sent from the contractor for the Jerome Avenue Center to Slava and Tsimerman. In the email, the contractor stated that “[i]t is urgent . . . that we call the State Senator Eric Stevenson so that he can call the building department at once and ask them to have this application reviewed” in connection with getting “a permit to install the gas lines into the building.” After reviewing this email, STEVENSON stated, “he’s not a smart guy . . . he’s not too bright, this guy” because “he put this in writing . . . why he got to put my name in it? . . . He shouldn’t have said that.” STEVENSON said they needed to avoid creating a “paper trail.”
During that meeting, the CW and STEVENSON also discussed the possibility of STEVENSON introducing legislation that would establish a temporary moratorium on the construction and/or opening of new adult day care centers (the “Moratorium Legislation”), which would have the effect of eliminating competition with the Jerome Avenue Center and the Westchester Avenue Center, thereby substantially increasing the profits earned by those two centers. STEVENSON told the CW: “All you gotta do is tell me what you want in the bill, and the bill drafter will put it together…I just need you to tell me what they [the co-defendants] want; we prepare the bill . . . . You can write down the language, basically what you want.” STEVENSON then asked: “Are Igor [Belyansky] and them putting together a nice little package [of money] for me, huh?” He said: “I got my inauguration I gotta take care of, I got a lot of sh*t man.” STEVENSON then said to the CW, in reference to the legislation, “I’m telling you, it’s done. It’s no problem.” Subsequently, the CW met with Tsimerman and Belyansky. Tsimerman said that as a result of the Moratorium Legislation, the value of their adult day care centers was “gonna skyrocket. . . . As long as [there’s a] moratorium, I can guarantee you at least a triple [in profits].”
On January 1, 2013, the CW and STEVENSON spoke on the telephone and STEVENSON referred to “Igor” [Belyansky] as “Santa,” in reference to the money he expected to receive. In a subsequent meeting on the same day in the CW’s car, STEVENSON sought assurances that “Igor” [Belyansky] was going to “bless everything,” meaning pay STEVENSON. He added that: “I got the inauguration, I want a blessing [payment] in place, man.” Two days later, the CW gave Belyansky and Slava a copy of a document titled “Proposed Adult Day Care Center Bill,” which contained a proposal for the Moratorium Legislation. On January 7, 2013, the CW provided the same proposal to STEVENSON. Later that day, Tsimerman provided STEVENSON with another copy of the proposal containing Tsimerman’s notes. On January 9, 2013, the CW told Belyansky that STEVENSON wanted $10,000 for the Moratorium Legislation, with $5,000 paid up front. Two days later, on January 11, 2013, at the Westchester Avenue Center, Belyansky, Slava, Tsimerman, and Binman gave the CW $5,000 cash. The CW then left the Westchester Avenue Center with the envelope of money and got in his car where STEVENSON joined him, at which time the CW gave the envelope of money to STEVENSON, after taking out his $500 cut.
On January 27, 2013, STEVENSON met with the CW and told the CW that he was concerned that Tsimerman might be cooperating with law enforcement officials and recording their conversations. STEVENSON expressed a concern that if “they bring me down… somebody’s going to the cemetery.”
STEVENSON had a draft of the Moratorium Legislation prepared by January 31, 2013, which he showed the CW at a meeting in his office and which was consistent with the bullet points prepared by the CW and Belyansky, Slava, Tsimerman, and Binman. On February 11, 2013, STEVENSON told the CW: “We got the bill [the Moratorium Legislation] back today . . . [t]he bill is done now, it’s going out to the members . . . to the committee and . . . we’re gonna . . . try to push it to get it to the floor.” On February 16, in a hotel room in Albany, SLAVA gave $5,000 in cash to the CW, which the CW gave to STEVENSON after taking a $500 cut. While the CW took out his $500 cut, STEVENSON walked into the bathroom of the CW’s room and left the door open so that he could receive the $4,500 cash in the bathroom.
STEVENSON introduced and sponsored Bill Number A05139, which places a temporary moratorium on the construction and/or opening of new adult day care centers within New York City on February 20, 2013, and it is currently pending before the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Aging.
Two days later, in a meeting between the CW and Belyansky, Tsimerman, and Binman, Belyansky said that the legislation would double the value of his share in the Jerome Avenue and Westchester Avenue Centers from approximately $350,000 to $700,000.
In the course of recorded conversations between STEVENSON and the CW, STEVENSON repeatedly referenced the convictions and sentences of other New York officials for crimes of public corruption, even as STEVENSON himself requested bribes. For example, during one meeting between STEVENSON and the CW on December 27, 2012, STEVENSON observed, “if half of the people up here in Albany was ever caught for what they do . . . they . . . would probably be in [jail] . . . so who are they bullsh**ing?” During another meeting, on January 1, 2013, after discussing the convictions of former New York State Senator Carl Kruger, former New York State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., and former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, STEVENSON commented on being “careful” about “the recorders and all those things” that informants wear in order to be careful not to “put yourself in jail.”
* * *
STEVENSON, 47, of the Bronx, New York, was convicted of one count of conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of conspiring to commit federal programs bribery and to violate the Travel Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, one count of committing federal programs bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Each of the counts of conviction also carries a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. STEVENSON is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Preska on May 20, 2014.
Belyansky, Slava, Tsimerman, and Binman all pled guilty to conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud in connection with their payment of bribes to STEVENSON before United States District Judge William H. Pauley III. They are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Pauley on January 24, 2014.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the investigators from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the District Attorney’s Office for Bronx County.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul M. Krieger and Brian A. Jacobs and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Pishoy Yacoub of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office are in charge of the prosecution.