New York City Councilman Ruben Wills of Queens was arrested today on corruption charges, the latest New York politician to be caught up in investigations apparently triggered by NLPC. According to the New York Daily News:
Wills had been under investigation by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli over tens of thousands of dollars in missing state funds given to a not-for-profit group he once headed, New York 4 Life.
Wills was chief-of staff to former State Senator Shirley Huntley when she arranged for “member items,” the New York State equivalent of an earmark, to Wills’ group. He apparently took a page out of Huntley’s book.
Huntley was arrested in 2012 after a New York Post story, based on information provided by NLPC, detailed how she siphoned off money for personal use from a group that she founded called The Parents Workshop, for which she has secured taxpayer money through “member items.” Huntley was convicted and given a light sentence of one year because of her help in catching other corrupt politicians.
As part of those duties, she invited a parade of local officials to her Queens house, including Wills, who were secretly recorded by the FBI.
We discovered Huntley’s theft in the course of reviewing public documents of nonprofits associated with politicians, an outgrowth of our investigation of U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY). In 2010, we exposed Meeks’ involvement with a charity called New Direction Local Development Corporation that seemed to function as a slush fund for Meeks and State Senator Malcolm Smith. The group received tens of thousands in “member items.” Among other problems, the group raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never received it.
Headlines in the New York Post, New York Times and New York Daily News apparently prompted authorities to launch far-reaching investigations of Meeks and other New York politicians.
In October 2012, Guyanese businessman Edul Ahmad, pled guilty in a $50 million mortgage-fraud scheme. Meeks received a secret $40,000 personal loan from Ahmad that Meeks first disclosed in June 2010 after the FBI began investigating his finances.
In October 2012, Albert Baldeo, a Democratic Party leader in New York City, was arrested by the FBI for reporting phantom donors to his unsuccessful 2010 City Council campaign in order to qualify for taxpayer matching funds. The scheme was described in a New York Post story of October 2011, based on information provided by NLPC.
In April 2013, State Senator Malcolm Smith was arrested by the FBI, along with several Republican Party officials. The arrests resulted from a scheme to bribe Republican officials to allow Smith to run for New York City mayor as a Republican. The Smith investigation was apparently prompted by media coverage of NLPC’s scrutiny of Meeks’ political network.
In May 2013, New York State Senator John Sampson was arrested. A former Senate Majority Leader, he was charged with embezzlement, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. He allegedly embezzled $440,000 from escrow accounts on foreclosed properties. Sampson reportedly received a $188,500 personal loan from Ahmad. According to media reports, the Meeks investigation led to Sampson.
In December 2013, Dr. Dorothy Ogundu was arrested on the basis of information provided to the New York Post by NLPC. A Nigerian-born physician, Ogundu ran a fake health clinic in Queens, New York. She was accused of stealing $370,000 from twelve separate government grants. She is a prominent Meeks donor who secured $380,500 in earmarked funds for the fake clinic.