ALBANY – Court papers unsealed Wednesday in Brooklyn revealed the names of nine people, including six state senators, who were secretly recorded by a fellow senator last summer as part of a corruption probe by federal prosecutors and the FBI.
The lawmakers, all Democrats from New York City or its suburbs, were recorded and photographed during numerous meetings with Shirley Huntley, a senator from Queens who was forced to resign following her own corruption scandal. She is to be sentenced today in a New York City courtroom.
Federal officials said they have probes under way involving eight of the nine people Huntley recorded.
The revelations continue Albany’s walk of shame, in which at least 32 state officials, most of them lawmakers, have been caught up in various scandals that resulted in arrests, resignations or some sort of penalties.
Huntley is the second lawmaker in recent weeks revealed to have worn a wire to help federal investigators in their probe of possible misconduct in the State Legislature.
The newest incident comes just two days after Sen. John Sampson, once the most powerful Democrats in the Senate and one of the state’s three-men-in-a-room governing system during 2009 and 2010, was arrested and charged with nine counts, including embezzling $440,000 from foreclosure escrow accounts to help him pay off debts from a failed 2005 campaign to become Brooklyn’s district attorney. Sampson was one of the six senators recorded by Huntley.
The others on the Huntley tape recording are Eric Adams of Brooklyn, Ruth Hassel-Thompson of Westchester County, Jose Peralta of Queens, Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn and Malcolm Smith, the former Senate leader from Queens who was recently arrested as part of a bribe scheme to get Republican Party backing for a New York City mayoral run.
A New York City councilman, Ruben Wills, also was named, as was Curtis Taylor, a former press aide to Smith, and Melvin Lowe, a former consultant to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Lowe was also a major recipient of campaign consulting funds by Senate Democrats when they were in control of the Senate for a brief period in 2009 and 2010.
Lowe has done campaign work for many New York politicians, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during his failed 2002 Democratic primary bid for governor. In court papers filed by Huntley’s attorney, Lowe is identified as having worked for Schneiderman, the state’s attorney general.
But Damien LaVera, a Schneiderman advisor, said Schneiderman “never hired Melvin Lowe or used his services,” and that the sentencing statement by Huntley’s attorney “appears to be an attempt at retaliation” against the attorney general. Officials noted it was Schneiderman who indicted Huntley on corruption charges.
Lowe ran two New York City-based consulting firms: Prestige Strategic Communications and G&L Consulting.
Eight years ago, in a Buffalo News article, Maurice Garner, a longtime Buffalo political power, former Albany lobbyist and former president of Grassroots, was identified as a partner with Lowe in G&L Consulting.
Garner on Wednesday evening said he “never had any fiduciary’’ role with G&L. “I never did any work, never got paid to do any work, with G&L,’’ he said. Of Lowe, he said, “We’re friends, but not business partners.”
Wills, the New York City councilman from Queens, said through his lawyer that he is not the subject of a federal investigation, New York City news outlets reported.
At least two state legislators were wearing wires at the behest of federal prosecutors as they walked the Capitol’s hallways and attended closed-door party gatherings and fundraisers. That has spawned a combination of worry, suspicion and jokes among legislators all this week.
Prosecutors last week revealed in court documents that Huntley captured colleagues on secret recordings, but the names were not made public.
A federal judge – the same one who will sentence Huntley today for stealing state government grants – Tuesday ordered the names released.
The Assembly canceled Wednesday morning’s session, though officials say it was because lawmakers were attending a previously planned ethics training meeting. The Senate held its regular session, though senators left town well before the 2 p.m. deadline.
In a letter to Judge Jack Weinstein, who will sentence Huntley today, the lawmaker’s lawyer sought to lay out reasons for a more lenient sentence on the 74-year-old Democrat.
Sally Butler wrote that Huntley met with prosecutors and FBI agents during a six-month period. “During her interviews with the government, she advised them that she had knowledge of what she believed to be corruption involving public officials,’’ the lawyer wrote.
Huntley, Butler wrote, was asked by investigators to invite “certain individuals into her home and record conversations’’ and that she “willingly’’ accepted the offer to have the nine individuals to her home on different occasions in the summer of 2012 to record their conversations and photograph them.
The Huntley matter comes weeks after revelations that former Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Democrat, had been recording conversations with lawmakers and others at the behest of the FBI since 2009; Nelson recently resigned as part of his own plea bargain deal, but not before prosecutors used the information he had obtained for them to charge Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, also a Bronx Democrat, with bribery.