A once-prominent local politician was sentenced Tuesday to 500 hours of community service rather than jail time for a misdemeanor tax charge conviction after a federal prosecutor said he cooperated in an investigation of a financial adviser to celebrities and other wealthy people.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis imposed the sentence on former New York City Council President Andrew Stein, saying he had intended to hand down a prison term but changed his mind as he listened to lawyers and Stein speak.
Stein, a Democrat, had served as Manhattan borough president and state assemblyman, as well as City Council president. He faced up to a year in prison. He also was ordered to file accurate personal tax returns and pay any unpaid taxes for 2003 through 2008.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Harrington gave Stein support, saying Stein met multiple times with the government in cooperative sessions after his arrest on the same day charges were brought against celebrity adviser Kenneth Starr. The government said Starr had operated a Ponzi-like scheme from January 2008 through April 2010. Starr was sentenced two weeks ago to seven years and six months in prison.
Harrington said the tax charge to which Stein pleaded guilty addressed what he did wrong, though he added that the government likely would have won a conviction on felony charges too. Stein originally had been charged with making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service and making false statements to a federal officer.
The prosecutor said Stein got into trouble because he "owed a lot of money."
As money came in, "he didn't use it to pay his taxes and he evaded payment," Harrington said.
Stein, who wept when Ellis announced that he would not send him to prison, apologized.
"I have made a terrible, terrible mistake and I have to live with that," he said.
Stein said he gave his "heart and soul" to public service for decades and regretted that he did not follow the sound advice he gave his sons to always do the right thing.
"With all my heart, I am sorry for my misdeeds," he said.
Ellis said he considered Stein a "celebrity defendant" but cited his lengthy public service as a positive consideration to his sentence.
Stein's lawyer, Andrew Maloney, said Stein fell behind in taxes about 10 years ago and could not catch up.
"There's no excuse for his conduct. He never knowingly intended not to pay Uncle Sam," he said.
Stein said outside court that he hopes to perform his community service by helping the elderly.
As part of his plea agreement, Stein admitted that he failed to disclose in April 2008 on an IRS form that he had an interest in a company, Wind River LLC, that he used credit cards in the names of third parties and that he rented a luxury summer home in the posh Long Island community of Bridgehampton.