Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was questioned by the feds amid a reported probe into whether or not he was allegedly concerned in a scheme to illegally funnel contributions to his failed marketing campaign for metropolis comptroller final yr.
Benjamin admitted to The Publish that he was interviewed earlier this yr in reference to the conspiracy and wire fraud prices filed in November in opposition to Harlem landlord and lawyer Gerald Migdol, who’s accused of creating unlawful, “straw” donations to Benjamin’s marketing campaign.
Benjamin, a former state senator from Harlem and supporter of the “defund the police” movement, was imprecise on the main points of his sit-down with federal legislation enforcement authorities and stated that neither he nor Hochul was below investigation.
Benjamin, who made these remarks final week, claimed Sunday that they had been “off the record.”
Benjamin, who’s known as “Candidate-1” in Migdol’s indictment, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
However a report Sunday stated Manhattan federal prosecutors issued a number of grand jury subpoenas late final yr for fundraising information associated to Migdol and several other associates from Benjamin’s marketing campaign committee, a number of paid staffers and consulting companies.
The investigation is searching for to find out how deeply Benjamin was concerned in his marketing campaign’s fundraising operation, in keeping with the New York Occasions, which cited three unidentified sources with direct information of the matter.
A supply near Benjamin’s marketing campaign for comptroller confirmed to The Publish that the committee had acquired federal subpoenas final fall.
Extra lately, prosecutors additionally started searching for information from the state Senate associated to discretionary spending he directed to his former district, the Occasions stated, citing two officers briefed on that subpoena.
Benjamin served within the Senate from 2017 until September, when newly minted Gov. Kathy Hochul picked him as her No. 2 following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a sexual harassment scandal.
Hochul and Benjamin, each Democrats, are searching for full-four years phrases within the November elections.
Migdol allegedly funneled greater than $2,000 in small donations to Benjamin’s comptroller marketing campaign so the candidate might qualify for taxpayer-financed matching funds from the town Board of Elections, in keeping with his Manhattan federal courtroom indictment.
He additionally personally donated $400 to Benjamin, metropolis campaign-finance information present.
Migdol has pleaded not responsible to the fees in opposition to him, which carry greater than 40 years in jail, and is free on a $250,000 bond.
The longtime Democratic donor — who hosted a 2000 US Senate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and backed her 2016 presidential marketing campaign — was scheduled to seem in courtroom for a standing convention final month.
But it surely was postponed till April 15 on the request of prosecutors “to permit additional time for the parties to discuss the case,” courtroom information present.
Throughout a pretrial convention in December, a prosecutor twice stated either side had been working “toward a disposition,” with out elaborating.
It’s unclear if Migdol is cooperating in opposition to Benjamin however a minimum of two of the subpoenas that seem tied to the investigation of him had been issued shortly after Migdol’s arrest, the Occasions stated, citing sources with information of the matter.
The Benjamin probe is reportedly additionally being performed by the identical assistant US attorneys who’re prosecuting Migdol.
Veteran election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder, who’s a part of Migdol’s protection crew and is mostly very chatty with reporters, declined to say what sort of deal was being negotiated.
“I’m not going to discuss my clients with you,” Goldfeder stated repeatedly.
In January 2021, The City website reported that Benjamin acquired a $250 donation from Migdol’s grandson, then 2, who was listed on marketing campaign finance paperwork as a “student.”
Benjamin pledged to return the toddler’s donation and people from 22 different individuals, together with Migdol’s spouse, after The Metropolis reported they had been made by an middleman, Michael “Mic” Murphy.
He didn’t instantly return a request for remark.
A spokesperson for Manhattan US Legal professional Damian Williams declined to remark.
Extra reporting by Ben Feuerherd