Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Details Emerge of Anthony Seminerio’s Close Ties to Hospital by Colin Moynihan -

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The relationship between a longtime assemblyman from Queens and a hospital in his district for which he had sought state funding was so close that in the early 1990s, the head of the hospital promised him a job if his political career faltered, according to testimony on Tuesday.

That assertion was made at a pre-sentencing hearing for Anthony S. Seminerio, who represented the 38th Assembly District in Queens for 30 years until June, when he resigned a day before pleading guilty to fraud. Mr. Seminerio, 74, admitted that he had promoted the business interests of Jamaica Hospital Medical Center before state agencies and fellow legislators without divulging that the hospital was paying him — in essence, he was pocketing money for his services as a legislator.

At the hearing, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, a prosecution witness, Arlene Pedone, who had once worked with Mr. Seminerio, testified that during a difficult re-election contest in 1992, David P. Rosen, the chief executive of Jamaica Hospital, sought to calm Mr. Seminerio.

“David Rosen assured Assemblyman Seminerio that if he lost the election,” she said, “there would always be a place at the hospital for him.”

The conversation Ms. Pedone described took place years before any formal relationship between the assemblyman and the hospital, but the anecdote highlighted their close ties. Prosecutors said the hospital paid Mr. Seminerio more than $300,000 to act as an advocate with legislators and lobby executive branch officials. The money was channeled through a consulting company that Mr. Seminerio had set up.

Jamaica Hospital has not been charged in the case. On Tuesday, a spokesman said, “The hospital has cooperated with the government’s investigation.”

The hearing afforded a revealing view into some particulars of the case that had been a mystery, and included evidence, like witness testimony and recordings of wiretapped phone calls, that often comes to light only during a trial.

Parts of the wiretap transcripts had been released previously by the United States attorney’s office, but on Tuesday, entire conversations were made public. In some instances, the identities of the people speaking on the phone with the assemblyman were made public for the first time.

A federal prosecutor, William Harrington, told the judge, Naomi Reice Buchwald, that the recordings showed that Mr. Seminerio had often improperly used his clout as a member of the Legislature to benefit clients of his consulting firm, from whom he received payments he did not disclose.

For instance, on June 20, 2008, prosecutors said, investigators recorded a conversation in which Mr. Rosen complained to Mr. Seminerio that he was facing a hurdle with an employee in the State Health Department.

According to the transcript, Mr. Seminerio offered to intercede, then a moment later said, “Uh, I’m due for a payment.”

Later, a lawyer for Mr. Seminerio, Perry Krinsky, called as a witness a former colleague of his client’s, who suggested that not every connection between Mr. Seminerio and Jamaica Hospital was tainted.

The witness, Serphin R. Maltese, a former state senator, wrote in a 2002 letter that he and Mr. Seminerio had arranged for a $25,000 grant for the hospital. But on Tuesday, Mr. Maltese testified that Mr. Seminerio had played no role in securing the money.

“Then why did Mr. Seminerio’s name appear in this letter?” Mr. Krinsky asked.

“I guess it was to make him look good,” Mr. Maltese said.