Ex-NYC councilman gets 5 years for corruption

Posted at: 01/08/2013 11:37 AM
By LARRY NEUMEISTER

(AP) NEW YORK - A former New York City councilman will spend five years in prison for misdirecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for community projects to his girlfriend and family instead, a judge said Tuesday.

Larry Seabrook, 61, a Bronx Democrat, received a sentence that was less than the seven to nine years in prison that the government had requested but far more than the non-prison sentence that his lawyers said he deserved.

U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts said Seabrook "held himself above the law" and acted illegally as a result of his sense of "entitlement, arrogance, nepotism and greed." She also ordered him to pay $619,715 in restitution, including roughly $418,000 that he must forfeit. He was told to surrender by March 8.

Prior to the announcement of sentence, Seabrook told Batts he remained a "proud man" though he had accepted the jury’s verdict. Though no longer a councilman, he said he would continue to fight for others.

The judge took Seabrook’s achievements into consideration in deciding the sentence, but only minimally, saying "his qualities and accomplishments as a public official are vastly diminished" by his crimes.

Last summer, he was convicted of nine of 12 counts in a federal trial. The government presented evidence that Seabrook misdirected more than $2 million from 2002 through 2009 by channeling it to nonprofit organizations that he controlled but were not doing legitimate work.

Prosecutors said Seabrook paid more than $400,000 in salary and consulting fees over the seven-year span to his girlfriend, siblings and other relatives. They said the girlfriend took a salary even though she was unqualified to run a nonprofit.

The government also alleged at trial that Seabrook used a political club to launder public funds for personal use and evidence offered by prosecutors included a receipt that Seabrook submitted for reimbursement that had been doctored to boost the cost of a $7 bagel sandwich and a Snapple to $177.

After the sentence was announced, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement calling Seabrook "a flagrant and a serial abuser of City Council discretionary funds in a far too familiar New York tale of corruption."

The conviction came a year after another jury deadlocked on fraud charges. At both trials, Seabrook, also a former state assemblyman and senator, vigorously denied any wrongdoing.

The case emerged from a wider probe into possible abuse of discretionary funds that the City Council sets aside for its members to use on community projects of their choice.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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