Chris Lange, FISM News
New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin (D) resigned on Tuesday hours after he was arrested on campaign finance-related federal bribery conspiracy charges.
“I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement issued through her office on Tuesday.
“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,” Hochul said.
Federal prosecutors said Benjamin orchestrated a “scheme” to receive campaign contributions in exchange for a $50,000 state grant and worked to “cover-up” his actions through “a series of lies and deception.”
According to the indictment, Benjamin carried out the illegal activity from 2019 through 2021 while serving as a state senator and campaigning for the position of state comptroller. Within this time frame, he allegedly appropriated state funds for the developer’s non-profit organization. The indictment stems from an investigation by the FBI, the New York City’s Department of Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.
In order to cover up the contrivance, prosecutors say Benjamin falsified campaign donor forms. They further allege that, while being vetted for the lieutenant governor job, Benjamin falsely stated that he had never “directly exercised” his authority as an official “concerning a matter of a donor [he] directly solicited.”
“This is a simple story of corruption,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District, during a press briefing Tuesday.
“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,” Williams said, adding his office will work with FBI and DOI partners “to ensure that politicians who put themselves over the public interest will be prosecuted.”
The five-count indictment accuses Benjamin of bribery, wire fraud, falsification of records, and related offenses.
Gerald Migdol, the Harlem real estate investor alleged to have participated in the scheme, was arrested in November on fraud and identity theft charges, according to the New York Times, which broke the story of the lieutenant governor’s arrest. Prosecutors said Migdol made thousands of dollars’ worth of fraudulent contributions to Benjamin in October 2019, one month after he filed to run for state comptroller.
Benjamin pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday during an appearance in Manhattan federal court.