NEW YORK (AP) — A state lawmaker pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges in a deal that requires her to resign from office, admitting that she obtained legal residency and ultimately citizenship through a sham marriage and then lied to bankruptcy authorities years later to erase $30,000 of debt.
Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, 47, told U.S. District Judge Denise Cote that she "falsely got married" to a U.S. citizen and referred to it as a real marriage when she became a citizen in 2005.
"I married this person and it was not a real marriage," she said in court.
The Democrat, who was elected in 2012 to represent Upper Manhattan, also pleaded guilty to making false statements in a bankruptcy petition in 2009 by hiding assets including her second husband's earnings and an apartment the couple owned.
Although the two false statements charges carry a combined potential penalty of 10 years in prison, Rosa agreed not to contest any sentence between a year and 18 months. She will be sentenced on Oct. 3.
According to Rosa's legislative biography, she was born in Santo Domingo, came to New York in 1994 and worked in the Dominican consulate in 1998. The biography says that, "In 2005, Gabriela became a proud United States Citizen, allowing her to deepen her involvement in government and civics by running for office."
The case is the latest in a series involving criminal allegations that have dogged dozens of state lawmakers in recent years. Several legislators have been convicted of corruption-related offenses including embezzlement, bribery or tax evasion.
Earlier this year, former Democratic state Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx was sentenced to three years in prison for accepting bribes. Former Buffalo-area Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, a Democrat, stepped down in January after a series of sexual harassment allegations.
Outside court, Rosa insisted she had never done anything wrong as an elected official.
"I never abused my position," she said. "I never abused my office."
She announced she was stepping down from her office, a condition spelled out in her plea agreement. The deal also required her not to again run for elected office for any position that requires citizenship.
The plea agreement also said she admitted that she received $1,000 from a representative of a foreign government in connection with her election to the Assembly and had returned it or agreed to return it.
"Gabriela Rosa's crimes cut to the heart of her legal qualification to serve the people of the State of New York as a New York State Assemblywoman," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "She gained the ability to run for that office only as a result of a years-long immigration fraud, and then she compounded her lack of fitness to serve by defrauding a federal bankruptcy court. Now she faces losing her position and prison time for her actions."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's said it had not received a resignation notice as of late Friday afternoon.
Associated Press writer David Klepper in Albany contributed to this report.