Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Bribery Charges Against New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson In Connection With Alleged Scheme To Sell Legislation For Cash
Four Others Charged In Bribery Scheme In Which Stevenson Drafted And Sponsored Legislation In Exchange For More Than $22,000 In Cash And Campaign Contributions
Second Assemblyman Cooperated in the Investigation and Has Agreed to Resign
Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Robert T. Johnson, the District Attorney for Bronx County, announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging New York State Assemblyman ERIC STEVENSON with accepting bribes in exchange for official acts. STEVENSON is charged with taking more than $22,000 in bribes from IGOR BELYANSKY, ROSTISLAV BELYANSKY (a/k/a “SLAVA”), IGOR TSIMERMAN, and DAVID BINMAN, all of whom are also charged, in exchange for STEVENSON’s official acts, which include drafting, proposing, and agreeing to enact legislation. Specifically, BELYANSKY, SLAVA, TSIMERMAN, and BINMAN, who were interested in operating and constructing adult day care centers in the Bronx, allegedly paid STEVENSON to sponsor, and ultimately cause to be enacted, 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 connection with one of the defendants’ adult day care centers on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx (the “Jerome Avenue Center”), STEVENSON is also alleged to have used his office to facilitate the issuance of a certificate of occupancy and the installation of a gas line. In addition, he is alleged to have held events in his official capacity to recruit senior citizens to attend a second center on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx (the “Westchester Avenue Center”). Four of the defendants were arrested this morning and the fifth, TSIMERMAN, self-surrendered . All of the defendants will be presented in Manhattan federal court later today.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For the second time in three days, we unseal criminal charges against a sitting member of our state legislature. As alleged, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was bribed to enact a statutory moratorium to give his co-defendants a local monopoly – a fairly neat trick that offends core principles of both democracy and capitalism, simultaneously, and it is exactly what the defendants managed to do. The allegations illustrate the corruption of an elected representative’s core function – a legislator selling legislation. And based on these allegations, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the sad conclusion that political corruption in New York is indeed rampant and that a show-me-the- money culture in Albany is alive and well.”
Bronx County District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said: “The conduct alleged in these charges can only shake public confidence in those who have been entrusted to govern and deliver taxpayer funded services fairly and honestly. What is most disturbing here is that an elected official allegedly acted not only to personally enrich himself, but was willing to limit the community’s access to a needed service by advancing legislation designed to effectively bar any other providers of day care for seniors from operating in a specified geographical area.
While it is our hope that every prosecution of this type should help drive home the message that honest, hard-working citizens will not tolerate elected officials who serve themselves rather than the members of the communities who put them into office, the message is sometimes ignored. These bribes allegedly were solicited even with the knowledge of successful past prosecutions of a long list of corrupt politicians. If there is any good news regarding today’s arrests, it is that talented investigators, such as those in my office and the U.S. Attorney’s office, will continue to do everything possible to bring alleged betrayals of the public trust to light and those responsible to justice.”
According to the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
STEVENSON has served as a member of the New York State Assembly since 2011 representing District 79, which includes various neighborhoods in the Bronx. ASSEMBLYMAN-1 is another member of the New York State Assembly who has been cooperating in this investigation since January 2012. ASSEMBLYMAN-1 has been charged with multiple felonies in a sealed Indictment in Bronx County Supreme Court (the “Bronx Indictment”), but has entered into a non-prosecution agreement under which he has agreed to continue to cooperate and to resign his office with the New York State Assembly. BELYANSKY, SLAVA, TSIMERMAN, and 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 ASSEMBLYMAN-1’s District. During that time period, they made multiple bribe payments to STEVENSON and ASSEMBLYMAN-1, who was cooperating with the government at the time, 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] the 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.
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 the transaction was conducted outside. 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. 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 corruption crimes, even as STEVENSON himself requested bribe payments. 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 the same meeting, STEVENSON and the CW discussed the sentences imposed on New York City Councilman Miguel Martinez, New York State Senator Efrain Gonzalez, and New York State Senator Carl Kruger. 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.”
Charts containing the names, ages, residences, charges, and maximum penalties for the defendants are attached.
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 United States Attorney Elizabeth A. Brandler of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.