NYC councilman guilty of some corruption counts

AP News
Posted: Jul 26, 2012 1:11 PM
NYC councilman guilty of some corruption counts

NEW YORK (AP) — A veteran New York City politician was convicted Thursday on nine of 12 counts in a corruption case in which prosecutors said he put hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars meant for community projects in the pockets of his girlfriend and family.

The verdict in federal court in Manhattan came less than a year after another jury deadlocked on the same charges against city Councilman Larry Seabrook.

At both trials, Seabrook — a 61-year-old Bronx Democrat who previously served as both a state assemblyman and senator — vigorously denied any wrongdoing.

Defense attorney Edward Wilford argued that the government built its case on the word of "liars and thieves" who were directly in charge of the community projects and never clued the councilman in on their "financial chicanery."

Seabrook "did his job," Wilford told jurors. "He advocated for his constituents. He fought for programs to help them."

The case stemmed from an investigation into possible abuse of discretionary funds that City Council sets aside for its members to use on community projects of their choice. Federal authorities said that from 2002 through 2009, Seabrook created a slush fund by directing more than $2 million of the funds to nonprofit organizations that he controlled, but that weren't doing legitimate work.

The councilman paid more than $400,000 in salary and consulting fees over the seven-year span to his girlfriend, siblings and other relatives, prosecutors said. The girlfriend, Gloria Jones-Grant, took a salary even though she was unqualified to run a nonprofit, they said.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Karl Metzner cited alleged misuse of a 2002 allocation to pay two golf instructors to give lessons to poor children.

"Who actually got paid under their contract? Gloria Jones-Grant," he said. "What did she do? She drove some kid to the golf course. What did she get paid to do that? $1,875."

As they had in the first trial, prosecutors also presented records they said showed Seabrook used a political club to launder public funds for personal use. The government's evidence included a receipt the councilman submitted for reimbursement that had been doctored to inflate the cost of a $7 bagel sandwich and a Snapple to $177.

He will be sentenced on Jan. 8.