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Ex-Union Boss at Rikers Island Jail Gets 58 Months in Prison in Federal Bribery Case

A federal jury in Manhattan found Norman Seabrook guilty of honest services wire fraud last August

What to Know

  • The former union boss at New York City's Rikers Island jail has been sentenced to 58 months in prison
  • A federal jury in Manhattan in Aug. 2018 found Norman Seabrook guilty of honest services wire fraud
  • Seabrook says he's innocent of charges he accepted $60,000 in bribes in exchange for funneling union pension money to a hedge fund

The former union boss at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex has been sentenced to 58 months in prison after his conviction last year on corruption-related charges.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Norman Seabrook guilty of honest services wire fraud in August 2018. On Friday federal judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered Seabrook to pay $19 million in restitution, in addition to the prison sentence.

Seabrook has maintained he is innocent of charges he accepted $60,000 in bribes in exchange for investing millions of dollars in union pension money in a risky hedge fund.

For two decades, Seabrook was head of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association and was a powerful figure in political circles. Some wardens said his control over the jail rivaled their own.

Seabrook was convicted partly on the testimony of the man who persuaded him to invest in the hedge fund run by Platinum Partners. That witness, Jona Rechnitz, who was also a lavish political donor to Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, told jurors he talked Seabrook into the investment on a free trip to the Dominican Republic, then later handed off $60,000 in a designer bag.

Defense attorney Paul Shechtman told jurors that Rechnitz was a world-class liar.

"If they had a Nobel Prize in manipulation, Jona Rechnitz would be a recipient," Shechtman said. "You can fault Norman Seabrook for falling for Jona Rechnitz's act."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Bell also insisted there were "multiple independent sources," including phone and bank records, to corroborate Rechnitz's story.

Seabrook, 58, was charged in 2016. His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury, and prosecutors put him on trial again.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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