Former Queens assemblyman Jimmy Meng has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for a plot in which he solicited $80,000 from a state court defendant through a plan involving cash hidden in a fruit basket, authorities said Tuesday.
Meng, 68, the first Asian American elected to the state legislature in 2004, was first arrested in July.
Meng allegedly told the defendant, who was charged with state tax crimes, that he could arrange a lesser sentence for him if he paid $20,000 to each of several assistant district attorneys in the DA's office. There were never any assistant district attorney in the DA's office working with Meng in a bribery scheme, authorities said.
Meng instructed the defendant to collect $80,000 in cash and conceal it in a basket of fruit. In a recorded phone call on July 17, Meng told the cooperating witness to prepare the money and deliver it to Meng's lumber yard in Queens, federal authorities said.
The witness met with Meng in the lumber yard under the surveillance of FBI agents, and handed over the fruit basket containing the cash, authorities allege. After Meng accepted the fruit basket and cash, FBI special agents moved in and arrested him.
Meng is scheduled to be sentenced March 12, 2013. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Meng was elected to the Assembly in 2004 and served only one term. His daughter Grace Meng later won her father's seat. She ran for and won the congressional seat vacated earlier this year by Gary Ackerman to become New York's first Asian-American congresswoman.
In a statement in July, Grace Meng said she was "shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations."
"Prior to this afternoon's reports, I had no knowledge of my father's actions or the investigation," she said in a statement. "I am independent of my father -- always have been, always will be. Until more facts emerge and we have a better understanding of the situation, the only thing further I'll say is that I urge my father to fully cooperate with all authorities."