Dominican Former Bronx Senator Gets 7 Years for Corruption
Efrain González Jr., a once-powerful Bronx politician convicted of corruption, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday by a federal judge who called his story “an American tragedy.”
Mr. González, 62, who was in the New York State Senate for nearly two decades, pleaded guilty a year ago to charges of conspiracy and fraud. Prosecutors said he had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from nonprofit groups to cover personal expenses.
On Tuesday, the judge, William H. Pauley III of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said that while Mr. González had “undoubtedly performed some good and generous acts,” he had “brought public disgrace onto himself and the New York State Senate.”
Mr. González sat quietly beside his lawyer during the proceeding, at times smiling at supporters in the packed spectator section. He said only a few words, telling the judge he wanted to apologize to “my family, my friends and to my communities.”
Mr. González, who is free on bond, was ordered to surrender to prison authorities by June 30. He was also ordered to forfeit more than $700,000 as proceeds of his crimes, prosecutors said.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. González would have “years to contemplate his betrayal of the people he was elected to represent.”
Rose Gill Hearn, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, called the sentence “a just result.”
Prosecutors had sought a term of 11 to 14 years; Mr. González’s lawyer asked for 3 years.
The sentencing came after a tortured legal battle in which Mr. González, after admitting guilt, sought to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he wanted to go to trial.
In a sworn affidavit, he claimed that a lawyer had pressured him into pleading guilty, and that he also felt pressured by the judge when he admitted guilt in court.
Prosecutors described his affidavit as “a near-total fabrication.” Judge Pauley, in refusing last month to allow him to withdraw his plea, called his claims of being pressured “preposterous.”
On Tuesday, Mr. González’s current lawyer, Lance Croffoot-Suede, described his client’s rise from grocery store stock clerk to founder of a security business and, in 1989, to state senator.
“It is an American story,” Mr. Croffoot-Suede said. “It is a story of incredible grit, determination, success despite the odds.”
He cited the two-year sentence recently imposed on the former Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, in a corruption case as another reason for leniency.
The prosecutor, Michael Levy, said Mr. González’s case “has nothing to do with Senator Bruno’s case,” and he suggested Mr. González was arguing that senators should “get a break.”
“The defense talks about how his story is an American story, and sadly that’s all too true,” Mr. Levy said. “It’s an American crime story, and an American corruption story, your honor, and it’s one that does get played out over and over again.”
Prosecutors had said Mr. González used his position as a state senator to favor a nonprofit group called Pathways for Youth with about $200,000 in state grants, known as member items. They said Pathways directed more than $400,000 to another nonprofit group, the West Bronx Neighborhood Association, which Mr. González founded, and which also solicited money from individual and corporate donors.
Prosecutors said that Mr. González misappropriated more than $500,000 from West Bronx to pay expenses like membership fees in a vacation club in the Dominican Republic, rent for a luxury apartment there, jewelry, Yankees tickets and college tuition for his daughter. They called the group a “phony charity” and said Mr. González had used it as “his personal piggy bank.”
Judge Pauley noted that Mr. González had neither accepted responsibility for his crimes nor shown any remorse. “You undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity and altruism of their elected officials,” he said.
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