Hedge Fund Founder Pleads Guilty To Fraud In Connection With Bribery Of Former Correction Officers Union Leader
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the guilty plea of MURRAY HUBERFELD to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with funds used to bribe the former president of the nation’s largest municipal correction officers union. Specifically, HUBERFELD, founder of the Platinum Partners hedge fund (“Platinum”), pled guilty to conspiring with an intermediary, Jona Rechnitz, to cause the fund to pay $60,000 to Rechnitz’s company by falsely representing that the money was payment for courtside tickets to eight New York Knicks basketball games. Instead, as HUBERFELD knew, the actual purpose of the payment was to reimburse Rechnitz for having paid Norman Seabrook, then-president of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association (“COBA”), for Seabrook’s efforts to get COBA to invest millions of dollars in Platinum. HUBERFELD pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Murray Huberfeld caused his former hedge fund to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a criminal partner in order to enable another crime – paying off the head of the correction officer’s union for the investment of millions of its members’ funds. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to fight fraud and corruption.”
According to the Superseding Information, Superseding Indictment, Indictment, and Complaint filed in this case, other public filings, statements made during the plea proceeding, and evidence and testimony presented at trial proceedings in October and November of 2017:
HUBERFELD was the founder of Platinum, a hedge fund that he continued to help operate unofficially even after his formal affiliation with the fund had ceased. In late 2013, HUBERFELD and Rechnitz, a real estate businessman who was an acquaintance of HUBERFELD, sought to attract public and institutional investors to the fund. At or around that time, Rechnitz told HUBERFELD that a contact of his – COBA President Norman Seabrook – would likely invest COBA’s money in Platinum. Over the next few months, Seabrook caused COBA to invest approximately $20 million of its funds into Platinum, including $15 million from a retirement benefits program funded by the City of New York that invests money for correction officers’ retirements.
In or around December 2014, arrangements were made to pay Seabrook personally for the millions of dollars the Union had invested over the course of that year. Rechnitz paid Seabrook $60,000 in cash, delivered to Seabrook in a men’s luxury handbag. HUBERFELD and Rechnitz then arranged for Platinum’s management company to receive a fraudulent invoice for $60,000 – generated by Rechnitz – that, on its face, billed Platinum for eight pairs of courtside tickets to New York Knick games given to Platinum by Rechnitz, who owned Knicks season tickets. In truth, and as HUBERFELD knew, the reason given to Platinum was false, and no Knicks tickets had changed hands. The real purpose of the payment was to reimburse Rechnitz, who had paid Seabrook for his efforts in securing COBA’s investments. Three days later, Platinum issued Rechnitz a $60,000 check.
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HUBERFELD, 57, of Lawrence, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison. HUBERFELD is scheduled to be sentenced on September 14, 2018. The maximum potential penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Trial against Seabrook, on charges of (i) conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, (ii) the substantive offense of honest services wire fraud, and (iii) the substantive crime of wire fraud with respect to COBA’s right to control its assets, is scheduled to commence on July 30, 2018, before Judge Hellerstein. As to Seabrook, the charges in the various charging instruments are merely allegations, and Seabrook is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department, Internal Affairs Division.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Martin S. Bell, Russell Capone, and Lara Pomerantz are in charge of the prosecution.