What to Know
An NY state judge has been arrested on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges in connection with a multi-million dollar fraud scheme
Brooklyn Judge Sylvia Ash was arrested at La Guardia airport Friday
Federal prosecutors said she tried to help cover up crimes committed by MCU’s former CEO Kam Wong, who pleaded guilty in embezzlement scheme
A New York state judge has been arrested on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges in connection with a multi-million dollar fraud scheme at the Municipal Credit Union, law enforcement officials said.
Brooklyn Judge Sylvia Ash was arrested at La Guardia airport Friday on charges she tried to help obstruct a federal criminal investigation while serving as chair of the Board of Directors for MCU.
Ash, 62, is currently the presiding judge of Kings County Supreme Court Commercial Division and has served as a state judge since 2006. Federal prosecutors said she tried to help cover up crimes committed by MCU’s former CEO Kam Wong. Wong has already pleaded guilty to engaging in a multi-million embezzlement scheme.
Judge Ash, in her role as MCU Board Chair, is accused of deleting text messages and wiping clean an iPhone in an attempt to destroy evidence, prosecutors said.
After Wong’s arrest and later guilty plea, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, “For years, Kam Wong, the then-CEO of New York’s oldest credit union, betrayed the credit union’s hard-working members from the perch of his executive suite by siphoning off millions of dollars in company money for his personal benefit. Wong then tried to cover up what he had done by making false statements to federal investigators and creating false and misleading documents. He will now serve a substantial prison sentence for his crime.”
MCU is New York’s oldest credit union and has nearly $3 billion in accounts held by more than 500,000 members – many whom are public workers. Ash’s role as a board member was voluntary and she served from 2008 to 2016. Ash did receive tens of thousands of dollars in travel and other MCU related-reimbursements during the years she served.
“She will be exonerated because she didn’t do anything wrong," Ash's attorney Roger Archibald said. "The person who did wrong is in prison and that’s Kam Wong."
In addition, former NYPD officer Joseph Guagliardo was arrested in connection with the MCU fraud. He appeared in federal court on Thursday and is accused of stealing $250,000 from MCU by submitting false security-related billings. Prosecutors said he stole another $200,000 by allegedly setting up a web-advertising business to overbill MCU. Guagliardo is also charged with illegally selling prescription drugs to former MCU CEO Wong.
If convicted, Ash could face up to 20 years in prison. Court spokesman Lucian Chalfen said Ash had been relieved of all her duties, and has been suspended with pay.
Ash's bond was set at $500,000, and she will remain behind bars until Monday. Prosecutors voiced concern that the nature of the charges shows Ash can't be trusted to be released without bail, and that she did not surrender immediately.