New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was arrested on Tuesday on federal bribery charges, The New York Times reports.
Benjamin, who was recently tapped by Gov. Kathy Hochul as her No. 2, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday.
The five-count indictment accuses Benjamin of directing state funds to a Harlem real estate developer in exchange for thousands in illegal campaign donations to Benjamin’s failed 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller.
Prosecutors said Benjamin then “engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up the scheme,” including falsifying campaign finance forms, misleading city officials, and giving false information as part of a background check when he became lieutenant governor last year.
Benjamin was appointed shortly after Hochul replaced disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He is currently running for a full term.
It’s unclear whether Benjamin intends to step down. But even if he did, he will likely remain on the ballot in the state’s June primary after the state Democratic Party designated him as its nominee.
Benjamin said recently that he had cooperated with investigators and his top aides reassured allies that he would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
But the alleged co-conspirator, Gerald Migdol, began cooperating with authorities after he was arrested on wire fraud and other charges in November for his role in the scheme.
Campaign finance scheme:
Prosecutors say Migdol steered thousands in illegal contributions to Benjamin beginning in October 2019, a month after he filed to run for comptroller.
Prosecutors said Migdol made the donations in other people’s names, including his 2-year-old grandchild.
Prosecutors said the scheme aimed to boost Benjamin’s fundraising so he could access New York City’s public campaign matching funds and score tens of thousands in additional cash.