Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin Arrested in Alleged Bribery Scheme

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New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin surrendered to law enforcement Tuesday morning, facing a federal bribery conspiracy indictment for alleged campaign finance fraud committed during his tenure as a Manhattan state senator.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation filed the indictment with the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York accusing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s second in command of funneling fraudulent donations to a previous campaign, The New York Times reported.

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Sources told the Times that Benjamin allegedly directed state funds to a Harlem real estate investor in exchange for absorbing thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions into his coffers for an unsuccessful 2021 bid to become the New York City comptroller.

The indictment does not name the organization that allegedly conspired with Benjamin, but alleged that Benjamin may have abused his power as a State Senator to award a nonprofit $50,000 in grants in exchange for campaign contributions.

Benjamin “and others acting at his direction or on his behalf, also engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up his scheme, including by falsifying campaign donor forms, misleading municipal regulators, and providing false information in vetting forms Benjamin submitted while under consideration to be appointed the next Lieutenant Governor of New York state,” according to the indictment.

The allegations were based on an investigation that took place between June 2017 and September 2021

The governor’s office and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Commercial Observer

The indictment could jeopardize Benjamin’s title as lieutenant governor and taint Hochul’s chance of being elected after assuming office in August following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Harlem Democrat was appointed by Hochul just two days after her swearing-in and was seen as a way for Hochul to shore up support downstate.

Before his time in the State Senate chamber in Albany, Benjamin served as managing director for Genesis Companies, a Harlem affordable housing developer, for seven years. He made his way into the Senate in a special election in 2017 after Bill Perkins was elected to the city council.

During Benjamin’s time with Genesis, the firm accumulated 764 active violations and was involved in 100 cases in housing court for the roughly 1,000 affordable housing units it managed, the New York Post reported.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.