Ben Brafman: NY Senator Was Cleared In Corruption Probe


carl-krugerA lawyer for state Sen. Carl Kruger says that prosecutors have cleared the lawmaker of allegations that he traded bureaucratic favors for campaign contributions.  Attorney Ben Brafman said he was told by the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn that Kruger is no longer a target of an inquiry that began in 2008.”There was never any proof whatsoever that Kruger ever took anything from anybody to do anything,” Brafman said. “I’ve been told by the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of New York that he is not a target, and I do not expect him to face charges.”

The existence of the investigation was made public this week when a Brooklyn attorney and supper club owner, Michael Levitis, was arrested and charged with lying to agents during the probe.

An FBI agent revealed in court papers that the bureau had investigated whether Kruger and an aide were “performing official acts in exchange for campaign contributions.”

The inquiry ultimately included physical surveillance, confidential informants, cooperating witnesses, and recorded phone calls, according to the court filing.

The complaint against Levitis contained transcripts of recorded conversations in which he told a businessman, secretly working with the FBI, that Kruger would try to help him with an upcoming government inspection of his business, but only if he agreed to hold a fundraiser for his campaign.

It also claims that he solicited a $3,000 cash payment from the businessman in exchange for the senator’s help.

Levitis was charged with lying about those conversations when interrogated about them by agents.

Brafman said that in reality, Levitis had no connection with Kruger.

“He didn’t know Kruger and never gave him any of the money. This guy claimed he had access to do things, and he was lying,” Brafman said. He said the senator was eventually made aware of the investigation and cooperated.

A spokesman for Senate Democrats, Austin Shafran, told The New York Times that Kruger was the “victim of an influence-peddling scam.”

“Sometimes unscrupulous individuals falsely claim a close relationship to public officials which simply does not exist,” he said.

A lawyer for Levitis offered a slightly different version of events.

Jeffrey Lichtman confirmed that his client had, indeed, held a fundraiser for Kruger in 2008, and that it occurred after Kruger had contacted officials about an inspection.

But Lichtman said the two things weren’t related and there was no quid pro quo.

“Like any constituent across the country, Mr. Levitis contacted his local politician when he had a problem which affected his business,” he said. “At no time did Kruger demand money or a fundraiser in exchange for his help.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney declined to comment.

The investigation of Kruger by the FBI and Brooklyn U.S. attorney has been going on for two years.

{WCBS-TV/Noam Newscenter}