Lt. Gov. charged with bribery, other offenses
Brian Benjamin accused of using authority when he was state senator for campaign contributions
Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has been charged with bribery, honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those offenses, Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today.
Benjamin, 45, of Harlem is accused of use of his official authority while a New York state senator to direct a state-funded grant to an organization controlled by a real estate developer in exchange for campaign contributions.
Benjamin is also charged with two counts of falsifying records in connection with the preparation of contribution forms that falsely reported certain contributions made by campaign donor as being made by other individuals, and false statements Benjamin made in a questionnaire he submitted while seeking to become Lieutenant Governor.
He surrendered to the FBI in Manhattan this morning and was presented before United States Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge J. Paul Oetken.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns. By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns. My Office and our partners at the FBI and DOI will continue to ensure that politicians who put themselves over the public interest will be prosecuted.”
Benjamin could face a maximum of 20 years in prison. He is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Kathy Hochul for governor. Benjamin was appointed lieutenant governor on Aug. 26. Hochul was sworn in as governor on Aug. 24, following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, issued this statement about Benjamin’s arrest: “Mere months after heralding a new era of open, honest and trustworthy government, our governor finds her right-hand man in federal custody, making it evident her declaration was nothing more than hollow rhetoric,” Hawley said. “We’ve now had four consecutive executive administrations in which either the governor or lieutenant governor have come under severe criminal scrutiny, and if that doesn’t tell New Yorkers it’s time for a change in our state government, I don’t know what would.”
State Sen. Rob Ortt issued this statement: “Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin’s arrest today on federal corruption charges is another stain on New York State Government, and calls into question Governor Hochul’s judgment.
“Over the past few days and weeks, Kathy Hochul and the Majorities in Albany have reinforced their support for Brian Benjamin despite news of federal investigations. Governor Hochul said herself this morning that she’s “changed the culture of Albany.” Unfortunately, it looks like business as usual in our state Capitol.
“Kathy Hochul and Senate Democrats might tolerate this corruption, but New Yorkers don’t and neither do I.
“I’m calling on Governor Hochul and Senate Democrats to stop hiding from the truth and join me in demanding Brian Benjamin’s resignation.”
Update: Gov. Kathy Hochul issued this statement at 5:10 p.m.: “I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”