Former Councilman Gets 5 Years for Slush Fund Fraud - NBC New York

Former Councilman Gets 5 Years for Slush Fund Fraud



    Former Councilman Gets 5 Years for Slush Fund Fraud
    Martinez got 60 months, less than the 71 months he could have received.

    A federal judge sentenced disgraced former City Councilman Miguel Martinez  to five years in prison for stealing $106,000 in public funds, slamming him for violating public trust.

    Martinez  was also ordered to pay restitution.

    Judge Paul Crotty, while noting that Martinez was a former teacher and anti-domestic violence advocate, stressed that his crimes deserved punishment.

    "I must promote respect for the law," the judge said. "I believe that based on his own admissions he seriously violated the trust of that office. Public servants should act to preserve the trust the public places in them," the judge said.

    Miguel Martinez, 39, caught up in the slush fund scandal at the City Council, had pleaded guilty to pocketing city funds for five years.  At times close to tears, Martinez apologized to the court and to his community as two rows packed full of relatives, friends and supporters looked on.

    "If I could change time I would do things differently," Martinez said.  "I always knew the difference between right and wrong....I knew the thin line, and I knew I crossed the line accepting money that was supposed to go to the people."

    Martinez implored the judge to consider his good works in the community and not just the crimes he committed.  As he spoke, a woman in the front row began to weep.  At the end of his remarks there were applause cut off by the officers.

    He promised never to get in trouble again. "There's nothing that I will do that will place me again in this court or any other court," he said.

    "Martinez sold out the New Yorkers he took an oath to protect, and his price tag was $106,000," said Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  " He used the City's coffers as his personal ATM," he said.

    Martinez is due to surrender by Jan. 4th.  He is, so far, the only City Council member convicted in the slush fund scandal.  He quit his seat and pleaded guilty over the summer to federal fraud and money laundering charges.  He allegedly submitted fake invoices and diverted funds from non-profit organizations into his own pocket.

    "As he heads to prison, Miguel Martinez is a cautionary tale for public servants that corruption is a hazardous occupation," said Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the city Deparment of Investigation.

    Judge Crotty could have sentenced him up to 71 months.

    Martinez, a Democrat, was a seven-year veteran of the council.  He was charged in the wide-ranging probe by local and federal authorities into whether council members used member items to steer millions of dollars in taxpayer money to specious and closely-connected non-profit groups.

    A non-profit run by Martinez's sister was raided in March by the Department of Investigation, the local agency charged with probing the Council's slush fund.

    The group was given more than $1 million worth of taxpayer money since 2006, when Martinez's sister Maria joined its board, but the Council revoked its backing in April.

    The slush fund probe has also led to the arrest of two former aides to former Brooklyn councilman Kendall Stewart. They pleaded guilty last summer to swiping more than $145,000.  Stewart himself has not been charged and denied any wrongdoing.