Former Queens District Leader And City Council Candidate Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 18 Months In Prison For Obstruction Of Justice
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that attorney ALBERT BALDEO, a former Queens District Leader, was sentenced today in federal court to 18 months in prison for tampering with witnesses during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (“FBI”) investigation of alleged campaign fraud by BALDEO. Sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty. BALDEO was convicted of six counts of obstruction of justice and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in Manhattan federal court on August 11, 2014, after a two-week trial.
U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “Albert Baldeo tried through intimidation and harassment to obstruct the government’s investigation of his alleged fraudulent campaign practices. The obstruction of justice by a political official has no place in our politics, but it shows how officials who see fit to hold themselves above the rules will inevitably see fit to hold themselves above the law, and finish not fit to hold office. This has been all too common in New York City and New York State. Today’s sentence is a fitting punishment for Baldeo’s crimes, and a reminder that this Office and its law enforcement partners will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute political corruption.”
According to the Complaint, Indictment, and Superseding Indictment and evidence presented at trial and during the sentencing proceeding:
In the fall of 2010, BALDEO, then a Queens District Leader of a political party and an attorney, participated in a scheme to defraud New York City that involved the funneling of multiple illegal campaign contributions to his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for City Council. On various occasions, BALDEO, and in at least one instance one of BALDEO’s employees, provided money orders or cash to individuals to contribute to the campaign in their own names, even though BALDEO supplied the funds and these individuals did not contribute any of their own money or reimburse him for these donations.
As part of this scheme, BALDEO gave each such donor, commonly referred to as a “straw donor,” a campaign contribution card in which he or she wrote his or her name, address, employment information, and the amount of money purportedly donated to the BALDEO campaign. BALDEO instructed the straw donors to sign the contribution cards falsely affirming that the contribution was being made from their personal funds and was not being reimbursed in any manner. The New York City Campaign Finance Board (“CFB”) relied upon the information contained in these fraudulent contribution forms, among other things, in order to determine whether to release public matching campaign funds to BALDEO’s 2010 campaign. Moreover, as part of this scheme, BALDEO instructed several of these straw donors to sign affidavits, at least one of which was actually provided to the CFB in connection with BALDEO’s efforts to obtain matching funds, and which also falsely asserted that these straw donors’ contributions were made using their own funds.
After learning of the FBI’s investigation of this matter, BALDEO obstructed the investigation by repeatedly instructing certain straw donors to provide false information to, or not cooperate with, the FBI agents who were investigating contributions to his campaign.
Moreover, in response to BALDEO learning that one straw donor was going to refuse to lie as instructed by BALDEO: (1) a threatening letter was faxed from BALDEO’s office to the office of this straw donor’s attorney; (2) a co-conspirator of BALDEO not charged in this matter made false allegations to the New York City Administration for Children’s Services that this straw donor was abusing his grandchild; and (3) BALDEO and the same co-conspirator made at least one complaint each to the New York City Department of Buildings about properties owned by this straw donor or his wife.
BALDEO, 54, of Richmond Hill, New York, was convicted after trial of one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, and six counts of obstruction of justice, each relating to a separate instance of witness tampering. He was found not guilty of three fraud-related counts. In addition to his prison term, BALDEO was sentenced to two years of supervised release, including three months on home confinement. He was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and expressed his appreciation for the assistance of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and the New York City Department of Buildings in the investigation and prosecution of this matter.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal and Martin S. Bell are in charge of the prosecution.