31-year Veteran Lawmaker Told to Repay $1 Million
Former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio received six years in prison and was ordered to repay $1 million Thursday for abusing his office to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald handed down the sentence to the Queens Democrat after he entered a guilty plea in July.
"With my health, I'm lucky if I last six months," Seminerio said, suggesting the prison term is a death sentence, otherwise declining comment. He quit his 31-year Assembly post just before entering the plea.
Seminerio admitted to defrauding the people of New York of his honest services. The charges against Seminerio, who turns 75 this month, were brought under the same statute used in the recent federal conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, who awaits sentencing at the end of March.
Seminerio must surrender to federal authorities March 8, although he has 10 days to appeal. His lawyer Perry Krinsky declined to say what his client's next move will be.
Semineerio's sentencing is tied to his conviction of fraud for using his public office to drum up business for his private consulting firm. He faced a maximum of 12 years in prison. Pleas of leniency and kind words were sent to the court from fellow lawmakers such as Senators John DeFrancisco and Dale Volker, both Republicans, as well as Assembly Democrats Audrey Pheffer and Barbara Clark and Republicans Michael Fitzpatrick and James Bacalles. Also writing was Seminerio's doctor, who listed numerous ailments afflicting the former lawmaker.
The judge said Seminerio "accepted bribes and engaged in extortion as part of a decade-long scheme to use his office -- both literally and figuratively -- for personal gain and at the expense of the public trust."
Seminerio was secretly recorded providing his own view of what it means to be a public official: "It doesn't mean (expletive deleted)," he said on one tape.
Such behavior, said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, "threatens the public's confidence in our democracy. Seminerio was elected to serve the people, not himself."
The Seminerio case is one of several political corruption convictions of statewide officials secured by law enforcement authorities in recent years. Charges against him came about after agents wired former Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin, also a Queens Democrat, who was convicted of fraud, racketeering, embezzlement, theft of public funds and taking bribes. He is serving 10 years in federal prison.