N.Y. State Senate Majority Leader Charged with Embezzlement

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A New York state senator and his son pleaded not guilty Dec. 14 to charges of embezzling funds from a New York City health clinic.

Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. (D), the state senate majority leader who was defeated in the September Democratic primary election, and his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, were arraigned on embezzlement and conspiracy charges stemming from the theft of more than $500,000 from the Soundview Health Care Center in the Bronx.

They are free on $750,000 bail.

In an indictment handed up Dec. 14, they were charged with using funds from the federally-funded health clinic to fund lavish lifestyles, according to Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York.

“The indictment alleges that funds that could and should have been applied to purchase medical equipment and enhance health care services for an historically under-served population were diverted by the defendants for their personal use and to benefit friends and family members,” Lynch said in a statement. “In these difficult economic times, the charged crimes are all the more reprehensible.”

The federal indictment alleged multiple schemes by the Espadas. In one scheme, more than $100,000 was siphoned to pay for personal meals, Broadway shows, and sporting events. In another action, they said, the men allegedly diverted funds from the non-profit’s janitorial company, Community Expansion Development Corporation, for personal use and political expenses.

Espada also used the money to attempt to make a down payment on a Bentley but the effort was rejected because of bad credit, prosecutors said.

State officials filed charges against Espada in April for misconduct involving Soundview. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo worked with federal authorities on the case, which he believes will send a clear message to other public officials.

“Elected officials are supposed to serve the people not themselves, and this indictment should send a strong message: In New York, no one is above the law,” Cuomo said in a statement.

As a result of the indictment, Espada was stripped of his majority leader title on Dec. 14. However, he maintains his innocence in the matter.

“I look forward to a full and complete vindication in court," he told reporters.

“Thirty years ago, Sen. Espada founded the Soundview Health Care Center,” Gisella Caraballo, defense attorney, said in a statement published by CNN. “Soundview has provided high quality health care to thousands of families, children and senior citizens in the Bronx. Today is a sad day for Soundview and a sad day for the Espada family.”