Sen. John Sampson, right, with Sen. Malcolm Smith during an Albany press conference.
May 07, 2013Sen. John Sampson pleaded not guilty to two counts of embezzlement, five counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to the FBI Monday afternoon.
Sampson allegedly embezzled $440,000 from escrow accounts while he served as court-appointed referee for foreclosure proceedings conducted in Kings County Supreme Court. According to the indictment, Sampson indicated that he had illegally diverted the stolen funds to pay for expenses from his unsuccessful campaign for Kings County district attorney.
The indictment was unsealed and announced by United State Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta Lynch and Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI George Venizelos.
"The voters of New York state rightfully expect their elected officials to represent the voters' interest, not to trade on their positions of power to line their own pockets," said Lynch. "As charged in the indictment, for years Sen. John Sampson abused his position of public trust to steal from New Yorkers suffering from home foreclosure and from the very county he was elected to represent."
"Today John Sampson has been added to the list of recently indicted New York elected officials. We could View this as an achievement for the FBI and federal prosecutors," said Venizelos.
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, didn't waste any time and stripped Sampson of his committee appointments following his arrest Monday.
"These allegations are deeply disturbing," said Stewart-Cousins. "The alleged activity represents an offensive violation of the public trust for which there is no place in our government. Sen. Sampson has been stripped of his ranking positions and all committee assignments. He has also informed us that in order to avoid being a distraction to the conference he will no longer conference with the Senate Democrats."
Sampson was the leader of the Democratic Conference from June 2009 to December 2012 and the Senate Majority Leader from January 2011 to December 2012. He also served as the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In an interview on WCNY's "The Capitol Pressroom" Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the arrest of Sampson "only made a bad situation worse," adding that the arrest added more clarity and that this was the moment for the Legislature to act to pass the Public Trust Act.
"There will always be bad actors in government and in Albany," said Cuomo. "but it is incumbent on us to reform the system."
Sen. Terry Gipson, R-Rhinebeck, released a statement following the arrest of Sampson.
"This is another example of why there is an urgent need for comprehensive campaign finance and ethics in New York…I'm confident that under the leadership of Sen. Stewart- Cousins and by working with our colleagues across the aisle, we can bring reform to Albany," said Gipson.
Sampson's arrest came less than a week after prosecutors revealed that former Sen. Shirley Huntley was wearing a wire to cooperate with officials and to lessen the severity of her sentencing.
According to an AP report, an unidentified senator made a deal with a businessman who gave Huntley $1,000 for helping him get the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to lease him more space at the John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens. The AP reports that prosecutors declined to comment if the senator was Sampson.
Huntley was stripped of her leadership positions in 2012 by Sampson, who was the Senate Democratic leader at the time. According to an AP report, she is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty to mail fraud and embezzling $88,000 from a state funded nonprofit she controlled.
Sampson was released on $250,000 bond after prosecutors told the judge that they already offered the senator a plea deal. The AP reports he could serve a maximum of about four years if he pleads guilty to embezzlement and the lesser charge in a nine-count indictment.