A New York City real estate mogul with close ties to New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has been indicted for fraud and identity theft, part of an alleged scheme to conceal the source of contributions to Benjamin's failed campaign for city office.
Manhattan federal prosecutors allege Gerald Migdol schemed for more than a year on behalf of "the campaign of a candidate for New York City Comptroller," ordering the collection of allegedly fraudulent contributions so the candidate could collect public matching funds.
Among other things, the government alleges that Migdol personally reimbursed purported donors, and that he directed others to submit bundled "donations" to the campaign from people who had never actually donated. The indictment quotes alleged messages from Migdol instructing other to how to make donations, promising repayment when they said they didn't have the money.
Prosecutors did not name the candidate in their statement or in a redacted indictment, but sources familiar with the investigation confirmed it was Benjamin.
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"Neither Lieutenant Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities. As soon as the campaign discovered that these contributions were improperly sourced, they donated them to the campaign finance board, pursuant to guidance obtained from the CFB," a campaign spokesman said in a statement.
The City previously reported on allegedly questionable donations to the Benjamin campaign, which the campaign pledged to return. They also reported that Migdol's family -- including a toddler -- donated to Benjamin's campaign for comptroller, and that Benjamin has nominated Migdol for various community awards.
The Migdol Organization's website specifically touts the group's past support for Benjamin, among a select group of local Democrats. Harlem World magazine reported last year that Benjamin was one of the featured speakers at Migdol's 70th birthday party; photos from the event show a smiling Benjamin posed directly at Migdol's right. (Attorney General Letitia James spoke, hand-in-hand with Migdol, at the same event, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat gave him a proclamation.)
The lieutenant governor's office was not immediately available to comment on the indictment.
Benjamin, formerly a state senator, finished a distant fourth in June's Democratic primary. Gov. Kathy Hochul named him lieutenant governor in August, replacing her after Andrew Cuomo resigned and she ascended to the governor's office.
Migdol, 71, faces charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and identity theft. Attorney information was not immediately available. An individual answering the phones at The Migdol Organization's offices said they had no comment.