A veteran New York assemblyman was sentenced to six years behind bars on Thursday on charges he collected $1 million in consulting fees for, in his own words, "doing nothing."
Anthony Seminerio, 74, had pleaded guilty last year to defrauding his Queens constituents of honest services.
In a federal courtroom in Manhattan packed with Seminerio's supporters, defense attorney Michael Ross asked a judge to "consider the good things" his client has done in a political career spanning three decades.
He called Seminerio a "good man" who has "always placed family and friends first." He noted that more than 300 people wrote letters to the court asking for leniency.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said she has read all the letters. But she told Seminerio that all the support only shows that "you haven't been honest about the breadth and depth of your criminal conduct."
A mountain of evidence — including more than 15,000 intercepted phone conversations — proved allegations that Seminerio used his bogus consulting firm to shake down a hospital, a college and a lobbying organization, the judge said. She cited a wiretap that captured him saying, "And we don't have to do nothing. I mean, I don't have to do nothing."
She concluded, "You abused the trust that was placed in you."
Seminerio, who chose not to speak at the sentencing, also was ordered to forfeit $1 million. He was ordered to surrender to prison in 30 days.
In court papers, the defense had argued that Seminerio should receive home detention. Prosecutors said that federal sentencing guidelines called for him to receive at least 11 years in prison.
The case was part of broader corruption probe that also brought down another disgraced Queens assemblyman, Brian McLaughlin. He agreed to cooperate with authorities following his 2006 arrest and met with Seminerio wearing a wire.
Prosecutors said that in one secretly recorded conversation, Seminerio used a vulgarity to express that there's little significance in being an elected official.
"It's true," McLaughlin responded.
McLaughlin was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison.