2012-12-19 / Features

Two Years For Monserrate In Campaign Fund Fraud

BY LIZ GOFF

Disgraced former Councilmember and state Senator Hiram Monserrate is heading to prison for two years for corruption schemes designed to help finance his failed 2006 state senate bid. Monserrate was ordered by Manhattan Federal Court Judge Colleen McMahon to surrender to authorities on Mar. 11, 2013 to begin his sentence.

McMahon also ordered Monserrate to fork over $79,000 in restitution for the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money he steered to a Queens nonprofit group that used the funds to finance his failed bid for a state senate seat.

Monserrate pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in two schemes that could have put him behind bars for up to 40 years.

The ex-pol, who allocated $300,000 of discretionary funding he received as a councilmember in 2006 to the Coronabased nonprofit group, Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Community Empowerment (LIBRE), was charged by federal prosecutors with using $109,000 of those funds to pay LIBRE employees to work on his failed senate campaign.

Prosecutors also claimed Monserrate used the employees to conduct a voter registration drive in 2006 and withheld the database from state Board of Elections officials up to the last minute, giving him an unfair advantage against incumbent state Senator John Sabini.

Prosecutors said LIBRE staffers were there to provide immigration help, offer health education services, job placement programs and held classes in English as a second language.

Monserrate held a major role in selecting LIBRE staff members and the group’s Board of Directors.

In court papers filed ahead of his December 11 sentencing, Federal Prosecutors Brent Wible and Carrie Cohen blasted Monserrate for the corruption schemes and said he deserved up to 27 months in prison for the fraud.

“In short, he abused the power of one office in a corrupted effort to secure another, and, in the process, he undermined the integrity of a New York state election,” the prosecutors said.

Wible and Cohen said while “other elected officials have been convicted of crimes involving larger sums of money”, Monserrate’s crimes “furthered the public’s cynicism and its distrust of their elected officials”.

In a last-ditch bid to keep Monserrate out of jail, his ex-girlfriend Karla Giraldo, last week submitted a two-page letter to McMahon asking for leniency at his sentencing. Giraldo described Monserrate as “the kindest man I have ever known”, and told McMahon, “Hiram has always been very, very good to me and has never been hurtful to me.” She denied claims that Monserrate intentionally slashed her face with broken glass during a violent dispute in December 2008 at his Queens apartment.

Monserrate was cleared of assault in the slashing at his 2009 trial, but was found guilty of a misdemeanor for dragging Giraldo through the lobby of his apartment building, by the hair, shortly after the attack. Giraldo’s testimony at Monserrate’s assault trial led to his acquittal on the charges.

Monserrate eventually won a state senate seat but was booted after he was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge. He avoided prison time for that conviction and was hoping to do so again at his sentencing on the conspiracy charges, saying he should be spared jail time and instead be required to perform community service.

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