Baldeo Busted For Fraud
Tried To Trick City For Campaign $
Democratic District Leader Albert Baldeo turned himself in to federal authorities last Wednesday, Oct. 24, after being charged with allegedly attempting to swindle matching campaign funds from the city during his failed bid for the 28th City Council District seat.
Baldeo, 52, of South Ozone Park, was charged by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for allegedly recruiting “straw donors” to make the false contributions to his campaign in a special election in the fall of 2010. Reportedly, Baldeo used his personal funds to purchase money orders which the straw donors then sent to his campaign in order to boost the candidate’s chances of receive tens of thousands of dollars from the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB).
“Baldeo even allegedly used fear and intimidation to prevent others from exposing his conduct,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. “As [the] charges demonstrate, we will not sit idly by and allow candidates for elected office to corrupt the electoral process or the administration of justice.”
Mary E. Galligan, the acting assistant director-in-charge for the FBI New York office, added that the district leader “allegedly fabricated contributions to his campaign in order to receive six dollars in matching funds for every dollar he raised.”
“When FBI agents began to uncover his deceitful scheme, Mr. Baldeo told straw donors to lie to our agents and, in some cases, threatened and intimidated others in a vain attempt to derail the FBI’s investigation,” Galligan added. “[He] finds himself under arrest for allegedly breaking the law and then trying to cover it up.”
Elected as the male Democratic district leader for the 38th Assembly District in September 2010, Baldeo was one of six candidates who participated in a special election that November for the 28th City Council District seat occupied by the late Thomas White Jr. The seat represents parts of Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Jamaica.
Federal authorities charged that Baldeo raised over $47,000 during the campaign, including $27,000 which he lent to his own campaign. He submitted requests to the CFB for matching funds applied to $15,000 of his campaign contributions.
Between September and December 2010, law enforcement sources stated, Baldeo allegedly provided the straw donors with money orders which he had purchased for several hundred dollars in cash. He reportedly instructed the donors to sign the orders, then submit them as a campaign contribution as well as a signed affidavit. The phony affidavits were then sent by mail to the CFB along with Baldeo’s request for matching funds.
According to federal agents, the CFB denied Baldeo’s request due to questions it had regarding “the validity of various contributions to the campaign” which the candidate allegedly did not answer.
The CFB and the FBI launched an investigation into the Baldeo campaign in 2011. Between January and August of that year, prosecutors claimed, Baldeo allegedly coached some of the straw donors on what to tell investigators. In other instances, he reportedly used intimidation and threats to compel the donors from cooperating with the federal agents.
For example, federal law enforcement sources said, the attorney of one of the straw donors received in June a threatening letter allegedly faxed from Baldeo’s office. Reportedly, Baldeo knew that the donor had been questioned by the FBI and told the individual to lie to agents on his behalf.
When one of the other straw donors refused to cooperate in the scheme, authorities noted, one of Baldeo’s accomplices—who was not identified by federal agents—allegedly filed a false child abuse allegation against the donor with the Administration for Children’s Services. Phony complaints about conditions of a building owned by the same donor were also allegedly levied by the co-conspirator to the city Department of Buildings.
In both instances, law enforcement agents learned, the charges filed with both agencies were unfounded.
Baldeo was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, attempting to commit mail fraud, conspiring to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison per count.
Last Thursday, Oct. 25, the Times Newsweekly received an email statement sent “on behalf of” Baldeo denying the charges and accusing the government of being on a “vindictive and discriminatory” crusade.
“The government has expended tremendous resources to harass and target him for a City Council campaign in which he received no public funds,” as noted in the statement. “This case represents another example of overreaching by prosecutors. We intend to vindicated Mr. Baldeo’s good name and commendable civil service.”
The FBI’s New York office conducted the investigation with the assistance of the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Krieger of the Public Corruption Unit for the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York is prosecuting the case.
It was noted that the charges are allegations and Baldeo is presumed innocent until proven guilty.