Friday, January 14, 2011

Disgraced Politician Dies In Federal Prison by Dominick Rafter - Queens Tribune

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Former State Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, who represented Southwest Queens for more than 30 years before resigning in disgrace in 2009, died Jan. 6 in a North Carolina prison at the age of 75.

Seminerio, a Democrat, was elected in 1978 to represent a Richmond Hill-based district in the State Assembly. His 133-vote victory assured him the seat for the next 31 years.

In later years, he often endorsed Republican candidates like Rudy Giuliani for Mayor, George Pataki for Governor, and Rick Lazio and Al D’Amato for U.S. Senate. During his time in the Assembly, he represented Glendale, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood and Woodhaven. He last faced a Republican opponent in 2000 and often got the nominations of both the Democratic and Republican parties in his reelection campaigns.

“For over 30 years Anthony Seminerio represented the 38th Assembly District with passion and dedication,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), who succeeded Seminerio in the Assembly. “We should remember all of the good things that he has done for the community. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife and his children. “

In 2009, a federal indictment was handed down on charges of fraud, after he was accused of using a fake consulting agency to collect payments on actions he took as an Assemblyman between 1999 and 2008. According to the charges, Seminerio solicited and received payments to a consulting firm he set up called Marc Consultants from persons and organizations that had business with the state for nearly a decade beginning in 1999, and sometimes threatened anyone who refused to pay to the firm. Prosecutors discovered that Seminerio did not perform “any bona fide consulting services that fall outside the scope of activities an elected official could readily be expected to perform on behalf of his or her constituents.”

Instead, he used his elected office to lobby state legislators and state agencies on behalf of his paying clients and occasionally against people and organizations, including some of his own constituents, who refused to pay his firm a fee.

According to specific charges, Seminerio approached the founder of a Queens-based consulting firm in 1999 for whom he once worked and demanded a share of the company’s revenue. When the founder refused, Seminerio sought to dissuade their clients from doing business with them and instead hire Marc Consultants. That same year, Seminerio also pressured Robert Richards, the President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, to pay fees to Marc Consultants and threatened to work against vital state funding to the Chamber of Commerce in the state legislature if they didn’t pay consulting fees. In January 2000, Richards agreed and paid a monthly fee to Seminerio’s firm for approximately two years.

More recently, in 2008, Seminerio had attempted to convince Dennis Whalen, a senior New York State Health Department official, to allow Jamaica Hospital, which had paid Seminerio’s firm consulting fees, to acquire the Caritas Hospitals. Whalen had mentioned that other state officials supported Parkway Hospital’s bid to acquire Caritas. Parkway had refused to pay Seminerio’s firm any money. Seminerio never disclosed to Whalen that Jamaica had paid him.

Seminerio had attempted to claim his actions were approved in 1996 and thereafter by the New York Legislative Ethics Committee, but the court rejected the assertion.

In February 2010, a federal judge sentenced Seminerio to six years in jail and a $1 million fine.

Reach Reporter Domenick Rafter at or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125.