Former State Liberal Party Boss Raymond Harding pleaded guilty Tuesday and is now cooperating in the growing state pension fund scandal.
Harding, once one of the city's political power brokers, pleaded guilty to one felony count and is now telling what he knows about the kickback scheme, according to the state Attorney General's office. Investigators had accused Harding of taking $800,000 in illegal fees on pension fund investments in exchange for political favors - including helping to open up a State Assembly seat for the son of then Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Hevesi has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing in this case. Hevesi's longtime political adviser, and onetime Chief Investment Officer, Hank Morris is charged with conspiring to sell access to the pension fund in exchange for millions kickbacks. Morris had pleaded not guilty.
Cuomo said Harding's cooperation against Morris "... makes our case a much stronger case."
Dallas investment adviser Saul Meyer also pleaded guilty. Investigators said he paid $300,000 in kickbacks to Morris and that Meyers is also now cooperating in the criminal investigation.
New York's pension fund is valued at $122 billion and the State Comptroller is the sole trustee. "It is a fatally flawed system," Cuomo said. "The system is easily corrupted ... and it has been corrupted on and off for 30 years."
With Tuesday's guilty two pleas, Cuomo said four people have pleaded guilty. He said the investigation has spread to other states including questions as to how other state pension investments are awarded. In New York, Cuomo said "money and favors" were traded between state officials and those doing business with the state.
Harding's own son, Russell Harding, was released from prison in 2007 after serving time for embezzling $400,000 from the city under the Rudy Giuliani administration and possessing child pornography.