Former New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi admitted today he steered millions of dollars of state pension funds to an investment firm in exchange for campaign contributions and free travel.
Hevesi appeared in a Manhattan courtroom this morning after turning himself in to law enforcement officials earlier in the day. Looking contrite, he entered a guilty plea to a charge of "receiving reward for official misconduct," an E class felony.
Law enforcement officials accuse Hevesi of giving his political ally and friend Hank Morris, a Democratic consultant, preferential treatment and in return he received five paid trips to Israel as well as additional trips to California and Italy, totaling some $75,000.
He also got some $500,000 in campaign contributions and $380,000 in "sham" consulting fees, according to prosecutors.
Reading from a prepared statement, Hevesi apologized to the state of New York and to the court. He acknowledged he was obligated to act exclusively in fiduciary interests of pensioners and to avoid and disclose conflicts of interest.
The judge said the maximum sentence will be four years in prison -- but the minimum sentence is no jail. Hevesi could be required to pay fines and reparations, the judge explained.
The guilty plea marks the culmination of a years-long probe of payoffs made in exchange for investments in the New York state pension fund and Hevesi is the highest ranking offical to admit playing a role in the "pay-to-play" scandal. Hevesi controlled the pension fund until his resignation in 2006, when he pleaded guilty to a felony for using state workers to chauffeur his wife.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reached a million-dollar settlement with Bill White, a former president of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City who raised funds for Hevesi.
Cuomo has said White was involved in a $2 million payment from the pension fund to a business he was affiliated with.
White said through a spokesman that he was pleased to put the matter behind him and will help Cuomo make reforms in the state pension system.
Under the agreement, White has agreed to pay the state $1 million and abide by Cuomo's code of conduct in future dealings.
His three children were in the second row of the court as he entered the plea.